After a miserable season under the tutelage of now sacked and former boss, David Moyes last season, Tom Cleverley was perhaps the most ridiculed player in the squad, unfairly shouldering the blame for their dismal performances.
Cleverley – a product of United’s academy - showed promising signs of featuring in the United first XI after his loan spell at Wigan proved a success. And in United colours, he often exhibited glimpses of the player he could evolve into if availed the right support from his players, faith from his coach and the right position to be deployed. However, the major stumbling blocks that dotted his path were inconsistency and poor positional play that often culminated to comical errors.
Now a Manchester United loanee at Aston Villa, perhaps the midfielder’s most memorable game came back in 2011, in the FA Community Shield match against Manchester City. With his side losing 2-0, the youngster’s electric performance and magnificent tracking back proved pivotal as United turned around the deficit to win the match 3-2 courtesy of a Luis Nani winner.
The Aston Villa midfielder – at least for a season – has taken his temporary move as an avenue to revive what has been constantly regarded as a flailing career thus far. He is eager to prove his critics wrong as he is played in a more advanced role at Aston Villa.
Playing alongside Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood, Cleverley has been promising in a three-man midfield deployed under Villa boss Paul Lambert.
The 25 year-old came in for a lot of criticism at United, especially during the latter stages of the season during David Moyes’ bleak tenure, but feels that playing in the system deployed at Villa, he could flourish.
“If you looked at the games, the areas I was playing in were a little bit deeper and under different systems. It probably didn’t suit my game perfectly… All my best games for Manchester United and England have tended to be in a three – that’s a system we play here so it suits me.”
Furthermore, the England international added “I want to be more advanced in that three and hit both boxes.”
While his desire remains unquestionable, his future at United remains clouded in uncertainty. With the likes of Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney and occupying that role, Cleverley’s chances in that position remain slim. Furthermore, with Ander Herrera, Daley Blind and Darren Fletcher all vying for the midfield berth, it is hard to fathom the 25 year-old getting regular first-team soccer for Manchester United anytime soon.
His best chance perhaps lay in wowing Lambert with his performances and eventually earning a move away from the Theatre of Dreams as he fulfils his desire for regular playing time.