Tom Cleverley has played less games for United than Darren Ferguson, has less England caps than Geoff Thomas, hasn’t won any major trophies for United, scored any competitive goals for United, nor managed six games in succession for United. Tom Cleverley is a very talented football player who may end up being a legend. He isn’t one yet.
That really is the simple truth about the most talked about English midfielder of the past few days, Cleverley is a very good player, just as Ronny Johnsen was, Phil Neville was and Lee Sharpe was. For different reasons things didn’t work out as well as they could have for that aforementioned trio yet they could do for Cleverley, he has the right attitude, bags of ability and the perfect players around him, but he hasn’t made it yet, in fact with a fully fit squad, he may not even be a ‘first team player.’
I’ve long been an admirer of Cleverley, dating back to his reserve team appearances and loan spells at Leicester, Watford and Wigan. In February 2011 I wrote an article asking whether Cleverley could have the same impact on the United side that Jack Wilshere was having on the Arsenal team, coming to the conclusion that he could. At the beginning of last season, it seemed as though my theory was proving correct as the midfielder produced a string of stunning displays, until Kevin Davies clumsy- or deliberate depending on your point of view- challenge all but ended Tom’s season.
The last week or so has seen Bradford-born Cleverley being hailed as ‘England’s new saviour’ all on the back of a good performance against a lacklustre Moldova side. Tonight we saw many questioning his ability after he missed a couple of decent chances against an average Ukraine team. The fact is regardless of the media hyperbole Cleverley at 23 years old, knows full well that this is ‘his time’ to prove himself, not for England, but for United, after all there’s not much chance of making the plane to Rio if he’s warming the bench at Old Trafford- although it would be a different matter if it was the Anfield bench, obviously.
With Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and even Ashley Young all capable of playing ‘in the hole’ where Cleverley likes to operate for England. Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and a returning Darren Fletcher, not to mention possibly Phil Jones all contenders for midfield places at United, Cleverley isn’t going to just walk into the side regardless of form.
Cleverley is a top quality player who could be the sort to move United forward in the tika-taka way we seem to be desperate to achieve, but with only a handful of games under his belt for both club and country, now’s the time to be patient and assess what he can do over a season, rather than either laud or lambast him over a handful of games.
Is Cleverley the real deal? Is it time to wait and see? Feel free to comment, suggest or abuse below: