Cleverley and Anderson – Will their United partnership prevail?

by Sam Peoples

By Francesco Longo

Last season, Cleverley and Anderson started off the season in ferocious form. United played the game of you score three and we’ll score four. It was magnificent to watch and peaked in the 8-2 destruction of Arsenal. However, injuries sustained to both players at separate points kept them on the sidelines and the flourishing partnership was stifled almost as quickly as it blossomed.

They haven’t quite started this season in such blistering fashion but they haven’t played altogether badly. Against a more physical and tough Fulham midfield of Diarra and the ever impressive Dembele, they put in a good shift. You can see a lot about our midfield tactics against Fulham by looking at the chart below. Cleverley attempted 23 and completed 16 more passes than Anderson but you can see he is keeping the majority of his passes short in order to maintain ball retention.

Cleverley and Anderson’s passing charts vs Fulham. Stats provided by FourFourTwo

People seem to cry out for possession play and then bemoan the short pass but it is a very effective technique for dragging defences out of position. With high-pressing defensive tactics very popular these days, we see teams closing down the ball carrier quickly so  short and swift passing can be the best way to bypass it.

Cleverley helps counter this pressing tactic by acting as a hub for the ball, moving ahead of it and making himself available, thereby dragging the defence to himself. Due to his pace and spacial awareness, Cleverley is able to take a touch and pick out a pass, more often than not cutting the opposition open. This time on the ball gives Anderson the opportunity to move forward into the space created and receive the ball in a more advanced position.

Anderson is the aggressive passer, attempting the Hollywood ball far more often but the space he has comes in part from the partnership with Cleverley. He doesn’t have to worry as much about challenging the opposition because Cleverley is always there, creating space by drawing the defence. If Anderson is pressured he knows he has a constant outlet in Tom and he knows he’ll get the ball right back if he moves into space. 

Carrick provides the same sort of service to Scholes as Cleverley is providing for Anderson, being a constant outlet to allow Scholes to move around in the space create by drawing off the defence. It is this partnership of holder and aggressor which is paramount in a successful central midfield partnership.

Over the season, I think we will see Carrick generally playing when Scholes starts and Cleverley being paired with Anderson. Although, as written earlier, the partnership of Carrick and Cleverley is one which could be extremely successful for United in the future. While many see Carrick and Scholes as our first choice midfielders, Cleverley and Anderson do offer an exciting alternative that has every chance of supplanting the veterans partnership.

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Francesco Longo 09/07/2012 - 10:25

Thanks for the comments guys, sorry it took me so long to read them, just getting used to all the details of writing articles!

Don’t worry about the taunting opposition fans, anyone who thinks SAF has lost it doesn’t know what “it” is.

I also think Nani is on the same wavelength, if you will, as Cleverley and Anderson, I hope the three of them are given the chance to play together often this season, I think they can help each help the other take the next step in their development.

Oliver 08/30/2012 - 13:48

I really hope you’re right about them. I’ve had a similar opinion for a couple of years now, but they realyl do seem to bring the best out of one another. Even though he is heavily criticised, I think Anderson is a really talented player. He causes United to play more interesting football to watch, I don’t see how anyone can complain about that!

Every season United are predicted by most people to come second in the league. It’s how it happens, they always think we can’t possibly do better than last year when we haven’t strengthened as much as our rivals, but more often than not we do…

John Tring 08/29/2012 - 07:27

Hahaha…A Wigan-tarined injury-prone fellow and a fat pretender are Utd’s main hope for midfield?? Sorry, SAF has lost the plot for a long time now. Why did you buy Young and Jones last summer? Why didn’t you buy Fellaini and/or Dembele who both would have cost less than those two? Thses two guys already showed in last 2 matches just how much better thay are than what SAF has got! Last summer’s rubbish buys have cost Utd the title. It’s no different this term around. Actually, this is what happens when an individual becomes more important than the Club and no one challenges his (in)decisions. Gill is just a cozy-scratch-your-back guy to SAF.

Ste 08/29/2012 - 09:41

Actually the only thing that lost United the title last season was all the injuries. People love bandwagon jumping these days, seeming incapable of expressing there own original opinion. Everyday you here people say the same old rubbish like United need a hard man in midfield and Anderson should be sold and Cleverly isn’t good enough. Well I actually watched Cleverly and Anderson at the beginning of last season proving all their doubters wrong. Cleverly’s time at Wigan did him wonders and Anderson has finally found that midfield partner that can bring the best out of him. Buying another midfielder would just disrupt that partnership and Fergie isn’t stupid enough to do that. Thankfully he sees the potential in the Cleverly/Anderson partnership unlike all the bandwagon jumpers leaving the same old recycled comments on each comment section and forum.

Cleverley and Anderson will grow into one of the best midfield partnerships in europe over the next couple of years if they are allowed to and Fergie is definately going to allow them, unlike everyone else.

Why is it that every few years when United actually don’t win the title everyone starts saying Fergie’s lost it and all that bull. The United team is a young squad these days, Transitioning from the old to the new and the new will win the champions league within the next 3 years while we watch Mankinis City implode just like Chelski.


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