Standing up to the demands of a Premier League season is never easy for any player, but a particular attribute required of one hoping to play for Manchester United is consistency.
Unfortunately, this is one aspect of football that eludes certain stars on quite a frequent basis, with this season being no different at Old Trafford.
Whether it’s because they are in danger of being offloaded or need to save their career, several Red Devils could do with bucking up their ideas somewhat.
With that in mind, the following candidates aren’t playing to the potential their club has come to expect of them and could do with a proverbial pulling up of the socks in order to get things back on track.
While the winger has suffered with numerous injuries in his Manchester United career—still in its infancy—Ashley Young’s form isn’t exactly improving his chances of increasing his playing time.
Last season’s £20 million summer signing from Aston Villa has been limited to just nine Premier League appearances in the current campaign, struggling to build much momentum.
However, considering the club spent so much on the 27-year-old in 2011, one would like to think that Young would be capable of making more of an impression regardless.
With his place in United’s starting XI seemingly in danger, Goal.com recently reported Young as saying:
I'm a versatile player who can operate in a number of different positions so I'm comfortable with whatever formation the manager picks.
As a footballer you always want to be playing. It is never nice when you are on the sidelines.
I never realised how hard it was to keep yourself motivated when everybody else is out training and you are stuck inside doing rehab.
With just two assists so far this season, Young will need to pounce on the slightest chance handed to him by Antonio Valencia or Nani, lest he put his future with the club in peril.
It’s of little surprise that with Robin van Persie arriving at Old Trafford over the summer, one or some of those already within Manchester United’s attacking fraternity would lose out on some game time.
Thus far, it would seem as if Danny Welbeck’s position in the Red Devils’ pecking order has slipped slightly, although he isn’t in complete obscurity yet.
That being said, the 18 games that Welbeck has featured in across all competitions haven’t yielded massive results, including just the one Premier League goal.
Of those 18 games, eight have come from the bench and all of them have been for less than 25 minutes, although that still isn’t really an excuse for such a low scoring bounty.
Having signed a four-year contract extension in August of this year and regularly being looked upon as a very successful Manchester United project, it wouldn’t seem Welbeck’s position at the club is in a fragile state.
However, football is more business-like than ever, and to protect his spot within the team, results will be demanded of even the targets that seem safest.
In what has undoubtedly been his most prominent season as a Manchester United player so far, Tom Cleverley, it wouldn't be absurd to suggest, has been impressive in recent months.
Although Cleverley is seen by many a Manchester United supporter as the future of the club’s midfield, it might also be fair to say the academy product needs to show more if he’s to fulfill the potential he would seem to possess.
As Paul Scholes gradually makes his way toward the Old Trafford exit, Cleverley is being talked up as the ginger maestro’s eventual successor.
Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, these are incredibly lofty standards to live up to, a quality of play that he just hasn’t reached quite yet.
Cleverley has one goal and one assist in eight Premier League appearances this season, seven of which came by virtue of a starting slot.
While one may argue that Cleverley’s greatest qualities lie in aspects such as ball retention and possession play, it’s also hard to argue against solid statistics, something Paul Scholes always managed to rack up.
Like Welbeck, it wouldn’t be right to allege that Cleverley’s position as a Manchester United player is in danger, but his chances of starting football would appear to be.
It’s always difficult to come to a new club and maintain the level of performance that attracted such interest in the first place. Never mind a new league.
However, David de Gea has now had a year to settle into his Old Trafford roots and would seem to be struggling for consistent first-team football as much as he ever has.
The Spaniard arrived at Old Trafford last summer for a fee in the region of £20 million but has struggled to string together long amounts of playing time since then, competing with the more inconspicuous figure of Anders Lindegaard.
While physicality is indeed a factor in De Gea’s lack of involvement in the past year, there’s only so much time that can pass before questions begin to rise regarding the 22 year-old’s future.
The issue with buying a goalkeeper so young is that he’s in a position so pivotal to a team’s success that nobody can cover up his mistakes other than himself, otherwise the manager has little choice but to drop him.
Unfortunately for De Gea, the latter is what’s bound to happen and has happened, with Lindegaard gaining more prominence in the United starting XI.
If he’s ever to live up to the kind of potential displayed during his days with Atletico Madrid, now is the time for the youngster to start performing to specification.
Arguably the Manchester United star in the biggest need of a return to form, Nani is widely looked upon as one of the most inconsistent assets amongst the Red Devils’ roster.
The Portuguese veteran assuredly has the skills in his locker necessary to be considered a world-class talent but simply fails to showcase those skills regularly enough.
According to the Daily Mail, Nani’s exclusion from Manchester United’s 2013 calendar is just another omen that the winger is soon to depart Old Trafford.
Whether the player wants to leave or not is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is the fact that a dramatic improvement in form would better Nani’s standing among the club and its fans.
With a pass completion rate of just over 83 percent according to WhoScored.com, Nani is currently one of the worst passers in the Manchester United squad and averages over two dispossessions per game, which doesn’t bode particularly well either.