Is Cleverley Suffering From The Fletcher Syndrome??


Darren Fletcher dubbed by some as the Scottish “Lampard” in his teens was one of the most hated Manchester United player in the early part of his career. While some sections of the fans suggested that him being Scottish was the only reason he was selected in the team others called him as Sir Alex’s son. United’s former captain and midfield general Roy Keane too had blasted Fletcher in his notorious MUTV interview in wake of United’s 4-1 defeat at the Riverside. Espn football pundit Steve Mcmahon used to use the phrase “the Fletchers the O’Sheas and the Wes Browns of this world” when he used to criticize United’s lack of depth in the squad during the 2006-07 season highlighting the fact that Fletcher was not good enough when called upon in place of Scholes or Carrick.

                           Fast forward a couple of years and the Red Devils are playing Arsenal in the Champions League semi final where Darren Fletcher puts in the performance of his life where he covers every blade of grass, shows his ball winning skills by stopping Arsenal play their tiki-taka passing game. His determination was lauded when he made a superb tackle on to stop Fabregas from scoring (when the game was already done and dusted) that the referee thought otherwise and sent him off, which resulted in him missing the final against Barcelona (this drew comparisons with Roy Keane’s monster performance at the Stadio Delle Alpi where he too got booked and missed the final in Barcelona).
Although United were humiliated by Barcelona in the final, many stated that it was the inclusion of Ryan Giggs for the suspended Fletcher that had weakened United’s midfield where they lacked their enforcer’s stamina and box to box abilities to win the midfield battle. Good players become legends by performing at the biggest stage of em all, but for the first time it was a player’s being absent on the big stage that had made him a legend and a fan favourite. Fletcher although disappointed at not playing a part in the last two champion’s league finals, took heart from the positive publicity he had earned after that night in Rome and went on to earn a place in the PFA Team of the Year the following season at the expense of Lampard.
Fletcher may have become a more integral part of the squad now but hasn’t improved much as a player. Various injuries drop in form and illness resulted in him missing the re-match with Barcelona, where the same question was asked “would a fully fit Fletcher have given United a chance”.
After suffering 2 humiliations at the hands of Barcelona, United fans wanted Sir Alex to sign a world class midfielder like a Modric or a Sneijder who would help bridge the enormous gap that had been created between themselves and the Catalan giants. Many remained apprehensive when a young United team containing Tom Cleverley who had yet to make his United debut, a player who was nearly released by United as a teen because they thought he wasn’t good enough defeated Barcelona in a pre-season match at Washington DC. Cleverley’s energy was refreshing to many of the supporters who only had a few glimpses of him during his time at Watford and Wigan.
Good performances against Tottenham and Arsenal where United blitzkrieged their opponents with their mesmerizing football earned him a call up to the England squad and his movement and quick passing resulted in the formation of the slogan “Who needs Wesley when we’ve got Cleverley” an indication that the fans had forgotten all about the Sneijder saga; until he suffered from the “Fletcher Syndrome”.  A Kevin Davis challenge ruptured his ankle and he would be out for 4-6 weeks that coincided with United dropping a gear or two and looking pedestrian at best. This has raised the question where people have begun to believe that Cleverley was the messiah that kept this team ticking and on his absence the team has summoned back the labored performances of last season. 

As I was reading some posts on twitter after yesterday’s drab performance in Romania, some fans almost expect a Cantona-esque return from him which is too much to expect from a 22yr old who has played 4 games for United as his stock has risen since his injury. He maybe a talent but fans need to give him time to fulfill his potential.

On further note Wayne Rooney had claimed that United had adopted Barcelona’s pressing game to win the ball back quickly:-

“I think when you watch Barcelona a lot of people go on about their passing and the skills and how they keep the ball
“But, for me, when they lose the ball, how quickly they all defend and try and win the ball back, that’s the biggest asset they’ve got, I think.
“They win it back so many times in the opponents’ half and attack from there, so we’ve started trying to bring that into our game and thankfully that’s started paying off for us.”

But to defend like Barcelona one must not pass the ball more than 10-15 yards therefore it is easy to win back possession as you always have players close by to play a pressing game. With the loss of Cleverley Manchester United lose that quick one touch short passing game that Cleverley was able to forge with Anderson and therefore were unable to win the ball back high up the field something they were successful at, at the start of the season. Jones too who is comfortable with the ball at his feet offers an extra man in midfield with his marauding runs hence increasing the chances of keeping the ball in the oppositions half.
But with Fletcher in the team Anderson plays a much deeper role and Carrick basically just screens the defence by making interceptions hence the slow build up in some of the more recent games as all three of them lack the precision passing of Scholes to play that deeper role of switching the direction of play.
With the fixture list piling up and pressure building at the top of the Barclays Premier League it will be interesting to see how Sir Alex uses his man management skills to reduce the pressure on his fledglings as they play catch up ahead of the must win Manchester Derby.

Rohit Shankarmani
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One Response

  1. spot on! cleverley is integral for man utd to play the style of football that fergie is trying to bring in now..which resembles what barca play…but whereas barca have perfected the art and have at this moment 4 players who could play with the same style of tiki-taka as we call it..but with cleverley also we need to be cautious that man utd dont overuse him this season like arsenal did with wilshere last season..which i am sure saf knows…

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