Cleverley’s struggle continues

With Tom Cleverley out of contract in the summer and unlikely to play for Manchester United again, it remains to be seen where his futures lies.

To say Tom Cleverley’s career has had its fair share of ups and downs would be an understatement.

At 25, he has won the Premier League and played for England as well as representing Great Britain in the Olympics but he has also endured some devastating blows.

He began his career in Bradford’s youth side before moving to Manchester United as an 11-year-old trainee.

Cleverley impressed in the academy and then the reserves but suffered an injury in 2007 and was ruled out for seven months.

Upon returning, he became a regular in the reserve side and helped United win the Manchester Senior Cup and the Lancashire Senior Cup, scoring in the final against Liverpool.

He then joined the first team on their pre-season tour of South Africa and scored on his first appearance against Kaizer Chiefs.

Cleverley was an unused substitute in a number of United’s first-team games and moved on loan to Leicester City in January 2009, where he scored twice in 15 matches and helped the club earn promotion from League One.

The following season he earned another loan move, this time to Championship side Watford, where he was something of a revelation.

Cleverley scored 11 times in 33 league games and, despite suffering a knee ligament injury in April which brought his campaign to a premature end, he was voted the club’s Player of the Season.

Impressing again in pre-season for United, he seemed set to stay and try and force his way into the first team but was sent on loan to Wigan at the end of August in order to gain Premier League experience, having proven his worth in the lower leagues.

He made 25 appearances, scoring four goals and returned to United in the summer of 2011 finally ready to challenge for a regular starting place.

With Paul Scholes having retired, there was a midfield spot available and Cleverley appeared to grab his opportunity with both hands, impressing in the Community Shield victory over Manchester City and United’s strong start to the league campaign. A series of injuries threatened to halt his progress but Sir Alex Ferguson regularly commented on the quality of his performances.

Cleverley’s form earned him a place in the Great Britain Olympic football team and shortly after he won his first England cap against Italy.

At club level, he enjoyed more progress in the 2012/13 season, where he helped United win the Premier League title, finding the net four times in 32 games in all competitions.

However, Cleverley began to suffer a serious dip in form and was criticised.

Fans were unhappy with the passive nature of his performances, arguing he was not adventurous enough with the ball.

United also endured a hugely disappointing season following the retirement of Ferguson, finishing seventh under David Moyes.

Cleverley’s struggles hit a particular low when frustrated fans signed a petition demanding he not be picked for the 2014 World Cup. After signing the likes of Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria, new United boss Louis van Gaal decided to send Cleverley back on loan to ensure he played regular football once again.

The move to Aston Villa, which could be made permanent, may be crucial in restoring the confidence and belief of a clearly talented player.

Villa made a U-turn to sign Cleverley after initially pulling the plug on a permanent deal due to the player’s wage demands. With Cleverley out of contract in the summer and unlikely to play for United again, it remains to be seen where his futures lies. Cleverley is engaged to former TOWIE star Georgina Dorsett, with whom he has a daughter, Navaeh.

©PA Sports