Why this ex-Man United star has suffered a dramatic fall from grace

Tom Cleverley was once lauded by Sir Alex Ferguson and integral to Manchester United, yet now he is widely derided and looks set to exit Old Trafford this summer.

New manager Louis Van Gaal did not fancy the England midfielder, leading to a season-long loan move to Aston Villa that has been largely disappointing so far.

Arguably, Manchester United fan and YouTube sensation Andy Tate’s distinctive way of pronouncing the midfielder’s surname has got more accumulative coverage than Cleverley’s performances recently.

It was once so different. Cleverley came off the bench for the Red Devils in the 2011-2012 Community Shield match against Manchester City. 2-0 down, the midfielder was instrumental in starting a dramatic turn around, with the Red Devils winning 3-2.

Cleverley had come from a superb season-long loan spell at Premier League relegation strugglers Wigan Athletic, that gave him the chance to adopt to the physicality and challenges of regular football at the highest level.

Cleverley thrived, winning Wigan’s player of the season, helping the club to defy the odds and survive, though looking back the meteoric rise that followed may have come too quickly.

Only a month after that excellent cameo in the Community Shield in which the Red Devils claimed that stunning win, England came calling.

The argument that this was partially due to the reputation, and expectations of, young players at Manchester United appears to have some credence. Roy Hodgson’s intent to give Cleverley his chance was honourable, but also a bit too early.

In the immediate future Cleverley was excellent, before various long-terms injuries stunted his development at just the wrong time, though upon returning he admirably found form again.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season in charge saw Cleverley make 32 appearances across all competitions, including five in the Champions League, deservedly gaining a Premier League winners medal.

Losing Ferguson, renowned for his ability to man-manage younger players, came at a bad time as Cleverley was just starting to become an important part of United’s plans.

Under David Moyes the midfielder became widely castigated for both his performances for club and country, with over 10,000 fans signing a petition for Roy Hodgson to not select the midfielder for England.

As his progress stunted, Cleverley was naturally sent from hero to zero. The phrase ‘you are never as good, or as bad, as they say you are’ certainly appears to hold relevance here.

Cleverley was derided for not holding the physicality of Roy Keane or the skill of Paul Scholes, harsh comparisons and expectations for one still relatively young.

The midfielder has had a difficult time on loan at Aston Villa, in a side struggling for survival. Looking back, maybe joining Roberto Martinez at Everton, who Cleverley worked so well with at Wigan, could have been a better fit.

A move to the Toffees never quite materialised but a free transfer this summer is a distinct possibility.

Given Cleverley’s extensive domestic and international experience at just 25 years old, the midfielder still appears to be a potentially valuable asset. However, confidence is key in re-finding his old form, and Roberto Martinez appears well placed to be the man to do that.

In the short-term, new Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood will hope Cleverley can help them avoid relegation from the Premier League. The midfielder is certainly still a capable individual – it’s now time for the world to see it again.


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