Watching Jack Wilshere usurp Gareth Bale as the ‘greatest player in the history of association football,’ against Barcelona at the Emirates last night, I couldn’t help but be a tad jealous of the Gooners.
Wilshere was a contender for man of the match and the fact he’s only 19 years-old means he has a very bright future ahead of him, one that may or may not be at Arsenal.
Whilst watching Wilshere, put in a performance that by rights no teenager should be putting in against the ‘unofficial’ world’s best team, it dawned on me that despite his youth his apprenticeship has already been well served.
Wilshere was given the chance to mature at Bolton last season, where he excelled for Owen Coyle’s side and got used to not only the pressure but also the pace and physical nature of top flight football, which no amount of reserve games can truly prepare you for.
I couldn’t help but think of United’s very own Tom Cleverley, currently enjoying a tough loan spell at relegation candidates, Wigan. When I say tough, I’m certainly not inferring Cleverley has found the going tough, as he’s been one of the Latics few bright sparks in a typically difficult season. Cleverley recently returned from a one month lay out to come off the bench against both Blackburn and Liverpool. In both games he showed Roberto Martinez exactly what he’s been missing, tightening things up against Blackburn and showing his attacking abilities in the game against ‘King Kenny’s rejuvenated Liverpool’ side.
With Wigan’s next game being against United it’s not going to be until March when the youngster will get his chance to face ‘former’ title challengers, the massivest club in the world- Manchester City.
Regardless of how long before Cleverley next plays, there can be no denying his time at the DW has been a huge success and three goals plus an assist in only ten starts-plus five more as sub- is not to be sniffed at.
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Last season Cleverly went on loan to Watford where he scored 11 goals in 33 games and was the club’s player of the season. This season Cleverley’s shown his worth to the Wigan side, and his game seems to have progressed as not only as he made the step up from Championship to Premier League but also that he is more than just an attacking midfielder.
He’s been used in several positions and has shown that he’s not afraid to get stuck in and mix it up a bit, just like his more famous Arsenal counterpart.
Although, Wilshere is two years younger than Cleverley and has arguably progressed a lot quicker, by giving him a run in the side- he’s played all but three EPL games for the Gunners this season- Wenger is now reaping the benefits.
Cleverley and Wilshere have played for the England Under 21’s together and both were tipped for a bright future. Wilshere’s ascendancy has been nothing short of meteoric going from the U-21’s to the England first team in a matter of months. While he was originally thought of as an attacking midfielder, Wilshere now plays in a much more deeper lying role- even causing Fabio Capello to come out with the ridiculous statement that he could be England’s Claude Makelele.
The reason I find that statement ridiculous is that not only was Makelele arguably the best defensive midfielder in the CL era but also Wilshere’s use in that position is far from assured. There’s still a chance he could be used as a more box to box type.
Cleverley seems to prosper best as an attacking midfielder but his ability to get stuck in and his energy, makes me think he could be used, like Wilshere in a deeper lying role, or perhaps even just as an orthodox CM- remember they do still exist.
With United crying out for a successor to Scholes, even if he doesn’t retire at the end of the season, Cleverley could fulfill that role, if given the chance. There’s no secret that Sir Alex has money to spend in the Summer and the smart money seems to be on a midfielder joining United, but as the manager has always stated he isn’t prepared to spend over the odds on any new recruits. There aren’t too many world-class midfielders available unless you’re willing to pay a large amount, especially on the continent. It comes as no surprise that names such as Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson have been linked with a move to Old Trafford as although they won’t be cheap, neither should be over the £20 million mark.
This season United’s two biggest surprises have been Chicharito and Smalling, who’ve shown that youth and inexperience are irrelevant if you’ve got an abundance of talent and a mature attitude.
Jack Wilshere has shown the world what a supremely talented young player, who’s served his apprenticeship can do at the highest level. The question I’ve got is why can’t Cleverley do the same for United next season?
In my opinion, given the chance he can.