Tom Cleverley has enjoyed a decent start to the year for Manchester United. He has played every minute of United’s four games so far this season including United’s win over Wigan in the Community Shield.
Chosen as the preferred partner to Carrick ahead of Anderson by David Moyes, Cleverley’s steady performances kept him in the side but that could all be set to change thanks to the arrival of Marouane Fellaini.
The Belgian was, despite his late arrival, always one of Moyes’ top targets this summer and United fans are suitably excited to see the first new central midfielder brought to the club since 2007 go straight into the starting XI.
Finally, United’s midfield can carry a physical presence it has lacked so desperately for years but if Moyes was to keep the same formation with a midfield pair, Cleverley would find himself in danger of being cut out by Fellaini.
“Having that first title medal under your belt means a lot. It’s a relief to get the first medal, but it also makes you determined to win more. Experiencing that victory parade is something you want to do again and again and again. It was a very special day, which I’ll never forget, but I don’t just want that to happen once – I want it to happen many times. We’ve got that taste now and it makes us even hungrier.” Tom Cleverley
As much as Cleverley won’t like that, it would be the right thing for United to do if Moyes was to keep playing two in the middle. Cleverley’s best performances have come when United have used a midfield diamond (Newcastle away stands out) because it plays to the strengths of his quick pass-and-move style of play.
Moyes is unlikely to use the diamond formation given its defensive frailties and as such, Fellaini will likely be the first choice to partner Carrick. Cleverley will have to fight for his spot in the starting XI but as with any squad, the competition should only be seen as a healthy addition.
With Anderson claiming he is a changed man, Cleverley will know that he needs to make himself un-droppable to Moyes. The fact that he has worked with Fellaini for five years already means the Scot will know exactly what he is getting with him and he will want to play it safe as often as possible in what is sure to be a difficult year as United manager.
Cleverley is a player who polarises opinion among United fans. Many argue he will become nothing more than a squad player whereas others see him as a long term fixture in the midfield. Either way, Cleverley will have to step up his performances now that Fellaini has arrived or he will find himself as a fixture on the bench rather than the pitch.