More tackles and key passes: Cleverley outperforming Blind?

Tom Cleverley 2

Daley Blind replaced Tom Cleverley in Louis van Gaal's Manchester United side this summer, but who has had the better start to the Premier League season?

The England international midfielder joined Aston Villa on loan shortly after the summer transfer window closed in a move ratified by the Premier League. He had seemingly fall out of favour with the club's new manager Louis van Gaal, with the Dutchman opting to sign the trusted Netherlands midfielder Daley Blind. 

Cleverley, whose contract with the Red Devils ends next summer, is relieved to have moved on after coming under fire from his own supporters. The days of being criticised at United are in the past and he is evidently happy at the Midlands club, as his recent displays have proven.

The biggest question that remains: has Daley Blind provided the required improvements in the Manchester United midfield? Below we assess the pair's start to the 2014/15 season, using statistics provided by Opta.

  TeamTotal Shots / appsShot Acc (%)Key Passes / appTotal Pass / appFwd Pass / appDribble / appTackle / appIntercept / appAppsMins
Daley Blind Man United 1.00 50.00 0.75 67.75 14.25 0.50 2.25 3.00 4 360
Tom Cleverley Aston Villa 0.20 0.00 1.40 50.80 13.20 0.20 2.80 1.40 5 446

The Aston Villa man has proved to be the more creative of the duo - recording almost twice as many key passes as Blind per appearance, while he has also been more prolific in a defensive capacity, winning just under three tackles in each match, compared to the Dutchman's 2.25.

However, this is where the United loanee's superiority draws to an end. His summer replacement has been more adventurous with his shooting, registering four attempts so far this season. Cleverley has managed just one in five appearances since completing his switch to Villa Park. 

Blind is the pass-master in Van Gaal's side, and he is already shifting possession just under 70 times a match, compared to the 51 passes per appearance recorded by Cleverley. Nonetheless, the duo have recorded an identical pass completion rate - an impressive 89%.

The main criticism of the England international's game at Old Trafford was his tendency to shift the ball backward or sideways, but, in actual fact, a higher percentage of his passes this term have seen play move forward.

Nonetheless, Blind has proved his superior ability to read the game - an advantage he takes having been schooled in the Eredivisie. The versatile Netherlands international has averaged almost twice as many interceptions as Cleverley (per match), in his attempts to assist the United back-four.

Blind is the more adept in terms of breaking down opposition attacks and maintaining possession for his side; traits that will sit high on Van Gaal's list of priorities. His footballing IQ makes him the perfect player to shepherd the Red Devils' back-four and is already offering much-needed balance in the club's midfield.

While Cleverley has grown more confident over the past few weeks, his performances are unlikely to make Van Gaal re-consider his squad status at Old Trafford. 

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