MANCHESTER UNITED’S LEAGUE record with Michael Carrick is hardly earth-shattering but the Red Devils are undoubtedly suffering in his injury imposed absence.
United won five games and earned 17 points in Carrick’s 10 Premier League starts but have won just one of the five games [and collected five points] the midfielder has missed. Phil Jones looks to be David Moyes’ short-term fix as Marouane Fellaini and Anderson have flattered to deceive. Ryan Giggs, 40, has been used more often than Moyes would prefer in centre midfield.
The man Moyes would have looked to at the start of the season as a problem-solver and a player entering a true make-or-break season is Tom Cleverley. Recalled from Wigan by former United boss Alex Ferguson for the 2011/12 season, the 24-year-old has briefly shown glimpses of promise last season. 13 England caps have come in the last 16 months.
However, without Carrick beside him in the centre of the park and with United paying for their summer transfer meanderings for a creative spark, Cleverley has struggled. He admitted as much in an interview with United Review [match programme] this week.
“Any team in the world who had Carrick would feel the loss, there’s no denying that. But it has given a chance for other players to play and step up to the plate,” he said. Carrick has no goals or assists in his 10 league games this season but acts as an effective defensive screen and is often the ‘out’ ball for teammates in trouble.
The BBC’s Match of the Day highlighted Cleverley’s frailties as a defensive midfielder last weekend as he failed to track Yohan Cabaye for the Newcastle midfielder’s goal in a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. Indeed, of the 12 midfielders Moyes has used this season, Adnan Januzaj [two goals, two assists] have the best return. The other 11, including Cleverley, have a combined three assists and 0 goals. Cleverley commented:
At the moment, I feel like I’ve got more to give. I’ve had a few average games, a few more than I would prefer. But I felt this time last year was when I hit my best form of the season, when we were playing every few days.
“I’m the type of player who prefers that and, if I can get into a rhythm, then hopefully I can add more than just appearances to my record, I can also add some stand-out performances.”
“I’m definitely developing the defensive side of my game and tactically the manager is teaching me a lot of things,” he added. “Maybe the creative side of my game can improve a little bit too but I realise that’s not my only job in the team and sometimes I’ve got to sacrifice that part.”
Carrick is likely to miss this weekend’s match away to Aston Villa. Cleverley will hope it will not be one of his average games.