At the butt of a thousand and one Twitter jokes, Tom Cleverley is the most derided footballer in Manchester… quite a feat for someone who has no affiliation with Liverpool.
It is not very often fans celebrate the loaning out of a player, but Cleverley’s deadline day departure had United fans rejoicing like it was 1999.
It was also a move whereby the Aston Villa Twitter team welcomed their new addition with a picture of Cleverley himself celebrating – a goal against Villa no less, that he had scored last season.
— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) September 2, 2014
However, now that the furore has died down and the United fans have picked up the last remains of their party poppers, few have considered that his venture down the M6 to Villa Park provides an ideal opportunity for the 25-year-old to knuckle down and regain his confidence in a side lower down the table.
Motivational speakers around the world will probably have a PowerPoint slide that tells their given audience that sometimes you have to take a step backwards before you can move forwards. This is understandably the case for Cleverley and this move represents a perfect match for all parties involved.
It is likely that he will become a regular alongside England new-boy, Fabian Delph, which will also provide him with some healthy competition as he looks to regain a place in the England team, having failed to make Hodgson’s World Cup squad despite featuring in seven out of ten qualifiers.
Adding to his 13 caps is evidently on his mind.
“First and foremost I have got to get back playing and hopefully as a by-product of that I can get back in the England team,” Cleverley told Villa’s official website.
“Playing football is what matters most to me and I’m looking forward to getting back to what I know I can do. This is the kind of club where I can do that.”
It is up to Cleverley to now prove that football is indeed what matters most. His permanent move to Villa reportedly broke down due to his high wage demands, which means you cannot help but question his attitude and where his focuses lie.
It was likely the realisation that he may well rot in the United reserves that made him see sense (on top of Van Gaal’s desire to offload him), so it is important that he puts his new-found thoughts into fruition.
Working under United legend and now Villa assistant Roy Keane should also improve Cleverley’s game, whose playing style has often been scoffed at in the past.
Villa’s new boy bases his game on the style played over in Spain. “I watch Spanish football a lot,” Cleverley said back in February.
“If they pass the ball sideways but keep possession, the fans clap them.”
Cleverley’s love for a good old pass is evident upon viewing the statistics for last season. Sat prettily in 18th place out of all Premier League players, Cleverley was the highest ranked United player with a passing accuracy of 89.6%, ahead of United’s passing expert Michael Carrick (24th, 88.6%), as well as Jack Wilshere (57th, 86.1%) and Steven Gerrard (60th, 86%).
It’s not a stat that wins you games however, and what he regarded as Spanish, United fans saw as sideways, whereby he often played the safer pass.
His total of zero assists last season is testimony to this, but with the right channelling and under the guidance of ex-midfielders Lambert and Keane, Cleverley can build on his passing range amongst the other areas which need improving (which would be all, if you ask a United fan).
Working with Roy Keane for a season will do wonders for Tom Cleverley’s football. Good move for him. He will be back stronger.
— Lunga Biyela (@KingBiyela) September 2, 2014
It’s not hard to see Cleverley has some talent, but United was the wrong club for him. Roy Keane will either make or break him.
— Liam (@OffsideLiam) September 2, 2014
— MalikG (@Devil_InRed) September 3, 2014
Cleverley’s stint at Villa will put him in the shop window as opposed to the dusty shelf at the back, and he must seize this opportunity to showcase his talent not only to his parent club, but also to Everton who showed interest in the midfielder late on.
One step at a time however, Tom (this first one being backwards, of course), and he will be eased into proceedings with a stress-free run of fixtures to look forward to; Liverpool (A), Arsenal (H), Chelsea (A), Man City (H) and Everton (A). Wait, did I say easy?
I can already write the Twitter jokes for those who will highlight Villa’s achievement of seven points prior to Cleverley’s arrival and a potential zero points five games into his loan spell, so let us reserve judgement for a later date when he has settled into the side.
And what’s to say he will not don the United red in the future? Despite being a loan move, they have the option to take him back in January if they so wish.
On the other hand, his contract runs out next summer, which may effectively end his time at United prematurely unless an offer is made. For his sake, I hope no proposal comes about, as he needs to regain form in a setting that won’t constantly chastise him.
It was left late, very late, but the scapegoat to Moyes’s miserable campaign has been let out of the United pen, and now is the time for Cleverley to run free and prove his umpteen doubters wrong.
Main image courtesy of Vauxhall Football via YouTube, with thanks.