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Whatever happened to Tom Cleverley?

1.76K   //    07 Jun 2015, 17:25 IST
Tom Cleverley had a resurgence at Aston Villa playing under Tim Sherwood

To be honest this moment has been under speculation for over a season now, but last night it finally became a reality. Tom Cleverley has finally put an end to his much scrutinized time at Manchester United and has been reunited with Roberto Martinez at Everton, who previously worked with the midfielder during his loan spell at Wigan Athletic during the 2010-2011 season.

The move went through after Aston Villa decided against signing him on a permanent transfer having spent the previous season there and making a fair impact. Few Manchester United fans would state that this move has come as a shock to them.

It all started when the disillusioned player stated that he was relieved to join Villa on a season long loan as, besides a fresh start, he also saw it as a means to escape all the negativity he endured at Manchester United.

Perhaps the final nail in the coffin of his time as a Red Devil came when Cleverley chose to sell his custom made watch he received from Hublot, one of Manchester United’s former sponsors, complete with his squad number engraved on the back to a pawnbroker in Blackpool last October. These were the signs of an embittered player aching to prove his worth to a club, and fans who would show him some much needed appreciation.

Where did it all go wrong for the once promising Cleverley?

To be quite honest Cleverley’s initial years at Manchester United weren’t embroidered in criticism, instead it was quite the opposite. The Basingstoke born midfielder started his career at Bradford City where he was spotted by Manchester United scouts who saw enough in the youngster to recommend him to the club who snapped him up as an 11-year old back in 2000.

Cleverley originally started out as a left back with Manchester United’s youth teams but was later shifted to the midfield where he started scoring goals and made that position his own ever since.

After two highly successful seasons with the Manchester United Reserves, where he won the Manchester Senior Cup as well as the Lancashire Senior Cup and even earned a nomination for the Denzil Haroun Player of the Year, it was time to mould the midfielder for the first team.

After three highly successful loan spells with Leicester City, Watford where he won their Player of the Season award, and Wigan, the midfielder finally got a golden opportunity to carve a niche for himself at the heart of United’s midfield with the retirement of Paul Scholes.

In reality, Cleverley lacked the phenomenal talents of Manchester United’s two other midfield prospects – Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba, but always had his head firmly on his shoulders and was willing to wait his turn, something that the other two lacked, which is why Ferguson took no time to take a liking to him and view him as a possible replacement to Paul Scholes.

Cleverley Wigan
Cleverley had a loan spell at Wigan under Roberto Martinez

Injuries and form

His first run of games was extremely promising, with the midfielder’s work ethic, attacking runs, and passing on full display in from of the Old Trafford faithful. However, Cleverley came out on the wrong side of a Kevin Davies tackle back in September 2011 and was ruled out of action for over a month.

The midfielder was pressed into action once again against Everton over a month later, which was a mistake on the part of Ferguson, as Cleverley, who was deprived of enough time to recover from the injury he suffered against Bolton, hobbled off 57 minutes into the match after putting on a spirited display.

Alas that attacking aspect of Cleverley’s game soon vanished after the Everton game, and with Paul Scholes coming out of retirement due to the injury crisis Cleverley was shunted around the pitch in various positions that were not suited to him which largely played a part in crippling his development.

And then came the doomed David Moyes reign, where Cleverley’s form nosedived and it made him a target of some rather unjust criticism – the highlight of it all being an online campaign started by a fan calling for the midfielders removal from England’s World Cup squad which garnered over 10,000 signatures in little or no time.

However even though the results of the campaign pleased many who were in support of it, it’s safe to say that it wasn’t really needed as Hodgson took note of Cleverley’s severe dip in form and only included the midfielder on the standby list for last year’s World Cup.

His loan spell at Aston Villa was no consolation either as his form continued to falter under Martin O’Neill, with matters only getting worse when the Irishman was sacked and was even booed off the pitch by his own fans. However every dark cloud has a silver lining, and Cleverley experienced a resurgence under Tim Sherwood, which was only helped by the midfielder scoring important goals against Manchester City, Everton and West Ham.

Cleverley England
Cleverley has been included in England’s squad for the friendly and Euro qualifier

The Everton transfer

But the opportunity of working with an exciting club like Everton, under a skilled tactician like Martinez who has openly stated his fondness for the player on numerous occasions, was too good an opportunity to turn down and as a result Cleverley has become yet another former Red Devil who has made the switch to the Merseyside club.

Cleverley’s end of season resurgence along with an injury to Tottenham’s Ryan Mason has earned the midfielder a chance to put on the Three Lions shirt once again against the Republic Of Ireland in a friendly and Slovenia in the European qualifier in the coming weeks. It remains to be seen if the Englishman grabs the opportunities with both hands.

However the end of season form, and a transfer to Everton isn’t enough to strengthen the credentials of Cleverley, who turns 26 this August – the age where players are usually at their peak. Let’s hope the midfielder managers to replicate his Wigan form under Martinez, and gets back to his robust best. Perhaps then the answer to the question – “Whatever happened to Tom Cleverley” will reveal itself.