Tom Cleverley has been rewarded with his rise into the Manchester United first team with a new contract that keeps him tied to the club until 2015. The 22-year old midfielder, who has been sidelined with ankle ligament damage since Bolton away, impressed greatly in his short spell at the front line of United’s attacking play. He struck up an almost instant partnership with Anderson that brought United into the new season with a spring in their step that few thought would happen, not least so early on in the season. Cleverley’s box-to-box style of midfield play, matched with his radar like short passing game, have proved to be another masterstroke from SAF who has time and time again chosen to put emphasis on the youth of United rather than panic buying in from outside.
To me, the importance of Cleverley has been highlighted by how United have played in his absence. Since he has become injured, Anderson’s form has dramatically dipped and we have seen him put in some lackluster performances, struggling to find a midfield partner who compliments his game as much as Cleverley does. United have compensated Tom’s absence by placing a heavy emphasis on wide play and although Nani and Young have both played excellent football in the past few weeks, United have been at their strongest this season with direct and central football, using a quick moving short game in the middle of the park to break down opponents rather than swinging balls in from wide positions. Wayne Rooney is also dropping further down the pitch to try and bridge the gap between midfield and attack and although it is proving effective, it is limiting the chances that Wayne is getting in front of goal and with 9 this season already, we want our talisman to be our target man.
This contract is nothing but deserved for Tom and I hope that the international break has given him enough time to return to full fitness ahead of an away fixture to Anfield this weekend. United have lost on the last 3 occasions away to the Dippers, with Kuyt’s “6 yard hat-trick” still resonating in my mind, and we will need someone with Tom’s short game in the middle of the park if we are to break down what is looking like a very dangerous this season. Now that Tom knows he is in the United framework for the next 4 years at the very least, he should have the confidence that will allow his game to blossom and if his form continues in the same fashion that it did at the start of the season, he is on my shortlist for Young Player of the Season for both United and the Premier League.