From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.33 :: NO.47 :: Nov. 25, 2010
Basingstoke in Hampshire seems an unlikely birthplace for a future star of the fabled Manchester United production line.
However, this is where the highly-rated Tom Cleverley hails from even though he grew up in Bradford, where he was part of its youth set-up before joining United at the tender age of 15.
Cleverley caught the eye of United supporters during the club's pre-season tour of the United States earlier this year as he looked at home in a midfield bursting with the talents of Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and his idol Paul Scholes. The youngster scored twice in the U.S., including a sensational strike against the MLS All-Stars.
Cleverley, though, had a number of high-profile admirers well before his goal-scoring exploits across the pond. After impressing throughout his time in the famous United youth system, Cleverley, 21, was loaned out to Leicester and his creativity and midfield tenacity helped the Foxes win the League One title in 2009.
But it was a loan spell at Watford last season that highlighted his potential as a future United and England star. Cleverley spent the entire 2009/10 campaign at Vicarage Road, making 33 appearances in the second tier of English football and scoring an impressive 11 goals in the process.
He was even named ‘Hornet of the Year' by the Watford fans and manager Malky Mackay was equally impressed by the youngster. “He's a really top young professional that I can't speak highly enough of and he was a dream to have,” he said.
It was also during his time at Watford that Cleverley established himself in the England Under-21 squad, making the step up from Under-20s where he scored two goals in his solitary appearance. An injury cut short his successful spell at Watford, but he returned to Old Trafford and the starring role he played in America led to a season-long loan deal at Wigan.
Cleverley's Wigan debut — and indeed his Barclays English Premier League bow — came when he was introduced as a substitute with Roberto Martinez's men trailing 1-0 at home to Sunderland. Despite only having 15 minutes to make an impact, Cleverley created Wigan's equaliser when his shot was turned goalbound by a team-mate.
Martinez enthused: “Tom is a very exciting young player, he can play in a number of positions and provides us with some good new options, and adds great competition.”
Special praise from Martinez and Mackay is all well and good, but Cleverley will be aware that it is ultimately Sir Alex Ferguson who will make or break his United career.
Thankfully for Cleverley, Ferguson is fully aware of the progress he has made. “He could very well be the next top player to come through the ranks,” Ferguson said. “We'll probably bring Tom back in January (from Wigan). I felt it could be hard to give him enough football. I think five or six months on loan could really help him. He'll benefit from first-team football in the Premier League, Tom's going to be a great footballer, I really like him.”
Cleverley suffered a long-term injury just over a month after breaking into the United reserve team and was sidelined for seven months. He is not married yet, but is reported to be dating British glamour model Emily O'Hara. An Audi A5 is thought to be Cleverley's car of choice at the moment.
Name: Tom Cleverley
England U-21 caps: 11
England U-21 goals: 0
England U-21 debut: v Macedonia, September 2009
Moment to remember
Scoring a fantastic goal against MLS All-Stars on United's pre-season tour of America, flicking the ball over the head of a defender before volleying past the goalkeeper.
Moment to forget
Missing the end of his impressive season at Watford due to a knee ligament injury sustained during a match against West Brom.
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