After years of being spoiled by the total domination of the English game under the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson the 2013/2014 season was a tough season for United fans to fathom.
A year of frustrating performances on the field under David Moyes and the disappointment of missing out on European qualification left Manchester United fans worldwide devastated and raging with anger. Furthermore the re-emergence of Liverpool as title contenders under Brendan Rogers piled on the misery for the United faithful.
The frustration amongst fans led to every aspect of the club being heavily criticized and everyone being blamed. The players, the manager, the coaching staff, the owners and the mighty Ed Woodward.
Through-out the whole blame game one player was singled out by fans. A homegrown 24-year-old midfielder who has been at the club since age 12, Tom Cleverley. The constant verbal abuse that he received on a daily basis throughout the season forced the player to quit twitter. Let’s not forget the 19 thousand signature strong petition calling the FA to ban Tom Cleverley from the English squad.
Tom Cleverley may not be the finest midfielder in the world or even the Premier League but to say that the amount of abuse and criticism aimed at him was undeserved would be an understatement. It almost reached the point where some of it became ridiculously stupid. Every time he stepped on a football pitch he was to be blamed for everything that goes wrong on the pitch.
“I don’t mind hearing stick off 19 of 20 Premier League clubs. But when it comes from your own fans, it hurts a little bit more.” – Cleverley speaking to Daily Mirror
Manchester United as a team were falling apart under David Moyes and Tom Cleverley was an easy target. There i no denying that the midfielder had a poor season but he was nowhere as bad as most fans made him out to be. A Manchester United fan since childhood he was rightfully hurt and extremely lacking in confidence as the season unfolded. His comments in his interview with Daily Mirror summed up how much he was affected by the abuse from his fellow United fans. As the man himself admitted he is not a player who is going to beat three or four players and blast one into the top corner and he is definitely not the tough tackler that we have been in desperate need of.
Tom Cleverley was asked to play in an unfamiliar deeper role alongside Carrick by David Moyes for the majority of his appearances in a disastrous season. The defensive discipline required while playing in the position and the passing range required for the position are not the strongest aspects of his skill set and it is no surprise that he has struggled whenever he has been played in deeper roles.
Cleverley’s best spell as a united player came in the early part of the 2012/2013 season when Sir Alex experimented with a midfield diamond.Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa and Rooney playing behind two strikers.
This was a system perfect for Cleverley as it allowed him to play to his strengths of short quick passing and movement. Tom Cleverley is a player who will look out of depth whenever he is played in a two man midfield, but take the shackles off and play him in a midfield three with a proper defensive midfielder and give him the freedom he requires to play his passing game and it will be like having a brand new player.
Much like Cleverley, Anderson an attacking midfielder before joining United has spent his whole united career being shackled by playing in deeper roles that completely wastes his talents. It might be too late for Anderson to revive his United career as it seems certain that he will be sold in this transfer window but Cleverley may still have a future at the Club he loves.
At 24 years of age he can still turn around his united career and prove to be a valuable player for Manchester United. He needs to put last season’s disappointments behind and win back the fans. A manager who trusts him and plays him in a role that utilizes his strengths will be key. If Louis Van Gaal can instill some much needed confidence in Tom Cleverley the United fans who abused him could be singing the midfielders name sometime in the future.