The talented Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley who spent last season on loan at Championship side Watford has attracted the interest of a number of Premier League clubs this summer, including newly promoted Newcastle. The Magpies have expressed an interest in recruiting the youngster on a season long loan deal but with fierce interest in his availability would United be wise to cash in on his talent? His performances last season coupled with promising recent form in United’s pre-season tour of America suggests a loan to another top flight club this season would be beneficial for the player and the Red Devils.
The midfielder who has been at Manchester United since the age of 15 was sent out to Vicarage Road last season to gain experience and regular first team football. If that was his brief the player certainly delivered. Despite ending the season pre-maturely with what initially appeared to be a serious knee injury, Cleverley still finished the campaign as Watford’s top goal-scorer netting 11 times. He went on to win the club’s Player of the Season award as the overwhelmingly popular choice amongst fans and team-mates for this accolade. Watford would no doubt welcome him back with open arms but this capable midfielder will now be looking for a run in United’s first team or the chance to acquire experience with another club in the top flight.
Whilst United will always require a technically proficient, free-scoring midfielder his first-team chances are likely to be restricted by the ever-green Scholes and Giggs and the continued importance of Fletcher and Carrick to the midfield. His ambition to play Premier League football at the Theatre of Dreams may be circumscribed further by the club’s purchase of Javier Hernandez and midfielders such as Darron Gibson who are further ahead in their professional development. For a young player to break through with aplomb at United they have to be exceptional and impossible to ignore. This has been the case during the club’s pre-season tour of America where his appearances have caught the eye. The youngster was on the score-sheet in their 3-1 victory over Celtic as his long range effort caught a wicked deflection. His impressive cameo role in that game earned him a starting berth in the next friendly against Philadelphia Union where he played alongside Scholes and was able to spread incisive forward passes in the vein of his team-mate.
The ability and promise of this England Under-21 international is not in doubt. However he remains one of many United youngsters who will be competing for the attentions of Sir Alex Ferguson, including Obertan, Welbeck, Macheda and Smalling. Ferguson is acutely aware of the issues surrounding the introduction of raw youth into the first team squad. “We’ve a fine collection of young players who, if you don’t give them an opportunity are going to stagnate and move to other clubs who’ll get the benefit of the work we’ve done with them.”
Whilst the belief of the manager in these players is there he is realistic about the problem of stunted growth if they do not get their chances in the league. Manchester United may be able to attract a decent price for Cleverley despite his lack of top flight experience. This, however, would be foolhardy after his recent loan spell and pre-season performances. The optimum move for Manchester United would arguably represent weighing up the loan offers that will inevitably come flooding in before assessing which club can best augment his footballing education. Then United can reap the rewards of the work another Premier League club has done with him.