The international break may not have been good for Manchester United in terms of injuries but in the case of Tom Cleverley, it could be the beginning of a fine season.
His man of the match performance against Moldova earned him plaudits from Roy Hodgson and players alike. His impressive versatility and understanding of the game are exceedingly good considering he has only played 18 games for Manchester United and three for England.
A below par performance against Ukraine at Wembley was disappointing for Tom but it doesn’t take away from the fact that after only playing three times for England, he is already having a dramatic impact on England’s stagnant midfield.
Tom Cleverley spent a successful 2010-11 season on loan with Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic, scoring four goals in 25 appearances for the Latics.
Ahead of Wigan’s trip to face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday, the Wigan boss has sung the praises of the England youngster.
“Tom is special in what he does, while understanding other roles within the team just as well. But if you were to ask him what is his best position, I would say central midfield. And I think Manchester United always saw him as that – even while he was here.” Roberto Martinez
He said: “He can play in many positions and he is happy to be in one on one situations offensively and defensively, that’s where he’s got real variation.
“Sometimes it can be a negative to be able to play in a number of positions. Some players are a jack of all trades but not special in any of them.”
Tom Cleverley’s versatility may well be used this Saturday if Shinji Kagawa is to miss out on the Wigan game. He could be pushed into the number ten role in front of Scholes and Carrick.
While I think his strongest position is right in the middle of the park in a Scholes like role, dictating the tempo and direction of play, his fantastic performance at Moldova showed he has the credentials to play in a more attacking role.
Roberto Martínez also pointed towards the levels of maturity the 23-year-old showed since Kevin Davies’ tackle damaged his ankle badly.
“I have said it before, when he was with us, that his tactical ability is not normal for a player of his age in this country.” Roberto Martinez
He said: “His level of performance and maturity has been incredible since his injury.
“And to be able to represent England and Manchester United in such a central area is an impressive achievement.
“He is someone who could easily fit into the Dutch or Spanish way of playing quite easily, such is his technical ability and awareness.”
If Tom Cleverley can manage to hold his fitness and stay injury free this season, he has every chance of becoming a regular starter for Manchester United.
He is learning with every game that he plays and if he takes the positives from the international break into the league, then this season could be the unveiling of Manchester United’s new midfield maestro.