Tom Cleverley scored the third goal in Manchester United’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa at the weekend and it capped a fine performance from the midfielder who had come under scrutiny in recent weeks.
Paul Scholes had felt he needed to improve and he was right as Cleverley had never fulfilled on the promise he showed too rarely over the past few seasons.
In the build-up to the match, Cleverley said he knew he had put in too many ‘average’ performances and was confident he could turn it around, which is precisely what he did against Villa.
He scored his first goal in nearly a year of football and put in a fantastic shift in the middle of the park alongside Giggs and Rooney, something he now wants to use as a springboard for the rest of his season.
“It plays on your mind when you’re a midfielder that you have to score a few goals,” Cleverley told Sky Sports.
“We played as a three which gave us more licence. A year of not scoring came out in my celebration.
“I think I played quite well and kept the ball and kept us ticking at a high tempo. I want to kick on from here now and so does the team.
“Hopefully this is the start of a good run.”
It has been said on more than one occasion that you only get the best of Cleverley when he plays in a midfield three and that was apparent once again on Sunday with Wayne Rooney dropping deep to provide support.
Cleverley thrives in that role because his defensive duties diminish a little bit and he is able to concentrate on attacking which is where his strength lies as a midfielder but he did show an improved defensive side as well against Villa, something which indicates he is ready to improve his all-round game.
United needed that sort of performance from Cleverley, so did he and so did the fans as he is a fantastic midfielder when he is on form but it doesn’t happen enough.
I’m impressed he took the criticism on board and responded emphatically straight away because that shows maturity and hopefully his performance against Villa was a sign of things to come.