The Manchester United squad is, we are being told, on the verge of a major overhaul. So welcome to The Purge, a new regular series in which the three heads that make up TBB will have their say on those players that are in danger of being ushered out of Old Trafford.
The Purge, Episode #1: Tom Cleverley
Poor Thomas ‘I feel I've been made a scapegoat a little bit' Cleverley. The simple truth is that he's not good enough for United, and his fade from the first team recently suggests David Moyes has finally twigged. Despite his claims to be the Basingstoke Xavi in that hilariously ill-advised interview with Oliver Holt, he lacks any kind of creativity or attacking flair, and his passing is generally pretty average.
That would be less of a problem if he was a reasonable defender, but his positional play is terrible, and partly responsible for teams slicing straight through the the centre of United's midfield with alarming regularity over the last year. Marouane Fellaini might be no Sergio Busquets either, but at least his physicality (or willingness to elbow his way out of trouble) is entertaining and intimidating in equal measure. Cleverley is neither of those things. When even Jordan Henderson is made to look like a better player, it's probably time to sell up. I'm sure there's a Championship team that'd be willing to take him on.
"Brave as a lion, with good feet." "On a par with Thiago Alcantara." "A very clever player, the boy. Very intelligent. He's mobile and a good finisher." If Tom Cleverley has a very high opinion of himself, then he's not alone. Alex Ferguson does too.
Unlike other United squad frustrations, however, you can sort of see what Ferguson (and Cleverley himself, and Roberto Martinez and Roy Hodgson and all the rest of the notables that have come out to bat for him) are getting at. Cleverley tries to do a lot of things that should look encouraging: he likes to touch the ball the ball a lot, he tries to move it on quickly, he shows for the return pass, he buzzes around looking for space. Every now and then he has a shot or tries a through ball. It should, in theory, make him precisely the kind of multi-purpose high-energy midfielder that all self-respecting modern football teams require.
The problem is that none of the above ever seems to work the way it should. In Cleverley's head, he's a tiki-taka genius; on the pitch, he's ... well, he's Tom Cleverley. The little passes arrive at the wrong speed or to the wrong feet, the little pockets of space turn out to be blind alleys. Ferguson wrote in his most recent book that he was hopeful that Cleverley would boost goals from midfield; he's got 5 from 77 appearances. He's 24 now and he needs to be playing regularly. Perhaps that will lead to him finally transforming into the player he thinks he is. But being on the fringes of United's team isn't doing Cleverley any good, and it isn't doing United any good either.
The problem with Tom Cleverley is that he cannot pass or shoo... The two problems with Tom Cleverley are that he cannot pass, shoot, or tac... The three problems with Tom Cleverley are that he cannot pass, shoot, tackle, hea... The four problems with Tom Cleverley are that he cannot pass, shoot, tackle, head, positio... The five problems with Tom Cleverley are that he cannot pass, shoot, tackle, head, position himself on a football pitch, drib... The six problems with Tom Cleverley are that he cannot pass, shoot, tackle, head, position himself on a football pitch, dribble, cros... hang on, what was the question again?
Is there a more singularly useless, cowardly or pathetic player in our team? From a player with decent potential he has regressed in every single way to the point where he has literally no redeeming features. There cannot be an argument made for someone who, simply, cannot do anything right. Get rid at any price and be thankful.
Verdict: SELL SELL SELL SELL SELL
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