Although the scorelines have generally been positive, in the past couple of weeks, the chatter amongst some sections of Manchester United fans have been that of unease. It all began with the 1-1 draw against Stoke followed by conceding 3 goals against FC Basel in the Champions League and the continuation of the subsequent ‘unconvincing’ performances.
Manchester United now go into the Manchester derby on Sunday, having hit this indifferent patch of form, with a pretty large group of the fans on social networking sites (such as twitter) believing that it is solely down to the absence of Tom Cleverley from injury as to why our team have been playing the way that they have.
Although he is oblivious to this chatter since, as the club maintains, he is not in possession of a social networking account, the pressure really has been put onto Tom Cleverley since he burst onto the scene in the Community Shield helping Manchester United overturn a half time defecit of 2-0 into a 3-2 victory. He was undoubtably one of the stand out performers that afternoon and before his injury he continued that form into almost every game that he played in. Since his absence has coincided with some indifferent performances, it has led some people to believe that this is the reason. Is it really though?
This season there have been a lot of first team players missing with various different injuries of various different lengths; Antonio Valencia, Darren Fletcher, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand, Rafael, Fabio, Chris Smalling, Javier Hernandez, Patrice Evra, Danny Welbeck as well as Tom Cleverley and Darron Gibson whose injury looks like it could be long term. Most of these players have had a couple of weeks out because of injury. Is it reasonable to expect them to perform to their very best as soon as they come back? A lot the players above who have returned from injury have been eased back into the team in recent weeks. Couldn’t that explain the indifferent bunch of performances?
In addition to the returns from injuries, there have also been a few players who did not play much in the first few matches of the season since Sir Alex Ferguson regularly named similar teams to that which played in the second half of the Community Shield victory over Manchester City. These players did not get much game time at the start of the season and are probably not as sharp as the players who were playing regularly? Understandably so I suppose.
Whatever the reason, many people have almost come to expect Tom Cleverley to return to the first team and play just as he was earlier in the season, performances which meritted him an England call up. Maybe he will, it is yet to be seen, however to put hopes on a youngster who is relatively new to the first team setup to come back straight into the first team and make an immediate game-changing impact is just unrealistic. In some cases he has been billed as almost the saviour for our apparently ‘deficient’ and ‘suspect’ midfield and that is just unreasonable.
I like many others hope that his return from injury will come as soon as possible. He possesses all of the technical attributes to play as a centre midfielder at Manchester United for years. He is a wonderful player and possesses a great first touch as well as being a very good passer of the ball. His return will come as a boost to the whole Manchester United squad, however to expect him to come in and hope everything will just instantly tick on his reinstatement to the first team is just purely unrealistic.
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