The impact the holding-midfielder has in the modern game is massive! Paul Scholes has been United’s White Knight in terms of playing those millimeter-perfect cross field balls out to the wingers. As United are more and more relying on the offensive 4-2-3-1 formation, the importance of the holding midfielder has increased even more.
After Paul Scholes retired last season, United were left shell-shocked and not able to keep possession. After a string of defeats, Paul Scholes returned to the side in January 2012 causing a turn-around in United’s fortunes. Even though the man, hailed as one of the best midfielders of his generation looks fit, at the age of 38, he can’t have many years of football left in him.
United needed a solution and needed it fast. And just on cue, out popped Tom Cleverley! The perfect replacement for the ginger prince. The 23 year old has great potential and in the last few games he has shown his worth. In his last 3 games, he has enjoyed a 93% success rate of passes!
His efforts were even rewarded with that beauty of a goal against Newcastle, his first ever EPL goal. What a way to open his account! Of course, some might argue that he was lucky and the shot was meant to be a cross. Well, you do need a bit of luck in football and let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.
Cleverley and Scholes also have a similar style of playing. They love to control the pace of the game. Cleverley likes to stay deep at times, which is a boon for United’s relatively under-performing back four and he does play those beautiful inch-perfect balls we’ve come to expect over the years from Paul Scholes.
He learnt a lot about the holding midfield position on his loan spells at Leicester City, Watford and Wigan.
Cleverley made his debut for Watford in January 2009 in a 2–0 away win over Yeovil Town. After two goals in 15 matches, Cleverley’s loan spell came to a premature end after he suffered a shoulder injury.
In August 2009, Cleverley signed for Watford on loan. He scored seven goals in 20 appearances for Watford before a knee ligament injury in April 2010 ended his season. He ended up winning the Team’s Player of The Season Award.
In August 2010, Wigan Athletic confirmed they had agreed a season-long loan deal for him with Manchester United. Cleverley was one of Wigan’s best performers, and ended the season with three goals and two assists in 25 appearances.
Cleverley made his competitive debut for United in the 3–2 comeback win over Manchester City in the 2011 Community Shield. He came on as a second-half substitute for Michael Carrick after United went 2–0 down at half time, and assisted Nani’s equalizer.
Expect to see Sir Alex Ferguson play Tom Cleverley in the starting XI more and more often as the season progresses and expect him to become an integral part of the United team.
So, here’s to Tom Cleverley, the future Paul Scholes.