You've had all kinds of U-matic issues this year, it seems.
I don't know that a normal tape would be any better than a cleaning tape, no. As much as I detest cleaning tapes, since all they do is smears dirt around, and least it's doing more than nothing -- which is what a normal tape would probably do.
Given the issue you've had, I have no ideas if its the deck or the tape, to be honest.
It seems I've been the one answering most of your U-matic questions (and why they were not answered until now). While I'm no stranger to the format, having "been around" it (yet never used it), it's been at least 20 years. Only in my earliest days of video did I even see U-matic. At least that I can remember now.
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