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Who’s the clever option to replace Paul Scholes?

by Sam Peoples

When SAF openly stated that there would be no more spending at United this summer, it seemed that United would go into the next season without an established replacement for Paul Scholes; then David Gill threw a spanner in the works by stating that there was still time for transfers to happen in the window. United will buy a midfielder. United won’t buy a midfielder. United will buy a midfielder. United won’t buy a midfielder. This summer transfer window has, like most, seen rumours pick up pace with generous ferocity yet dwindle out equally as fast. The replacing of Paul Scholes was also going to be an unenviable task at United this summer but I can’t remember a more muppet fuelled set of weeks that has seen the likes of Nasri, Sneijder, Kagawa and Ganso all linked to United with no real movement coming from the speculation.

Regardless of what is happening outside of the walls of Old Trafford, many people seem to be overlooking what we already have; Anderson has his big chance this season to establish himself in the starting XI after not being able to deliver on such great promise having been held back in progression by injuries and I have every hope that he can build on his purple patch from last season to come out of the blocks firing this year. Combined with the dependable Carrick, he could well form a partnership that might be the missing link for United but for me, the youthful exuberance and tenacity of Tom Cleverley gives me the greatest excitement going forward next season.

Photo: Boby Levey (Getty Images)

After 3 years of being out on loan to Leicester City, Watford and Wigan Athletic respectively, Tom will be staying at Old Trafford this season as we look from within to build a new look midfield. In terms of self-belief, Tom doesn’t lack it and that is half the battle in making the step-up to the first team; in his most recent web-chat on tour, he was asked whether or not he was ready to play in the Champions League:

Yeah, absolutely. Since I was 18 I’ve progressed from League One to the Championship to the Premier League. Hopefully I can go up to the Champions League this time around. Chris Smalling did well last year and played quite a few European games. I don’t doubt I can do it.

At 21, he is still way below his prime as a midfielder but steady growth has led me to believe that he can bring a lot to the squad over the next few years, netting 17 goals in 75 appearances along the way didn’t do his confidence any bad either. He has been played out on the wings a lot in his time on loan and for England as well but he has the characteristics to be able to fit in the middle; vision, awareness, composure and an ability to drive forward with the ball. His game has gone as far as it can go without playing first team football at United; he won Player of the Year for Watford and succeeded in helping Wigan avoid the drop in the Premier League in the last campaign, he now needs to get regular football amongst the elite if we are going to see his growth exponentially rise at the same pace it has risen so far. The boxes are ticked and his time is most definitely now. When asked where his preferred position is, he talked about playing as the central playmaker of the squad:

I played most of last season out wide and if I am out wide I prefer to be on the left, cutting inside. I probably prefer playing in the middle as the more attacking midfielder of the three. But as long as I’m on the pitch it doesn’t bother me.

Is he ready to make the move up to the first squad? Yes. If there was ever a time to take a punt on a youngster, then it is now but it does not take SAF much persuasion to give the youth a chance at United. It has always been the ethos of our team to breed talent from below and Cleverley will most certainly get his opportunities this season because alongside Michael Carrick, only Darren Fletcher and Anderson remain as naturally central midfielders in a thin looking squad. I don’t know whether he will show enough promise to secure a starting place but I hope to see the beginnings of what I think will be a fantastic career at United for the young lad.


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