Tomorrow’s fixture with Liverpool has been dominating the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Vitriolic chants and handshakes are what people are talking about, disappointing considering the two biggest clubs in English football will go head to head to add another chapter to the greatest rivalry in the the domestic game.
But one player isn’t allowing himself to get bogged down in all of that, instead Tom Cleverley is focusing on playing in tomorrow’s “English Clasico”, a game he calls the biggest of his United career so far.
Having risen through the ranks at United Cleverley has experienced the tie at various levels and spoke with ManUtd.Com’s Nick Coppack about what the game meant at youth level:
“It was still a crunch match. You always looked forward to the Liverpool and Manchester City games. There was something extra about those games and winning those games always felt better, especially away from home. There was always a lot of satisfaction when you beat Liverpool on their own turf so it would be nice to feel that again. Hopefully I’ll be having that feeling again on Sunday night.”
Having experienced success against Liverpool at varying levels, Cleverley is hoping to add a first team victory to his ledger but he has to get onto the team sheet first:
“Yeah, it’s fair to say this would be the biggest game I’ve played in for United if I’m involved. But it’s not just a big game for me, it’s a big game for the club and of course there’s a lot of focus on this particular match. Liverpool haven’t started so well so I’m sure this will be like a cup final. Meanwhile, we’ve won our last three games so we’re hoping to build on that. It’s important we maintain that momentum. It’s a massive game for the team.”
If he starts against Liverpool, and I think he will alongside Carrick, then it is a massive game for the boy personally. There has been a lot of hype around the lad, but in fairness he hasn’t done it for Man Utd yet. Some fans might say that is harsh but I think its accurate. The lad did very well at Watford and improved at Wigan. The performances for GB and England have been strong. I’m waiting for him to finally make the break through with the club that matters.
The start of last season was exciting, and he was apart of that, but it fizzled quickly. Cleverley obviously struggled with injuries and missed the whole season really. It was a blow but he is back and he is starting all over again. The manager has resisted moving into the transfer marker, as much as the fans had screamed for a centre midfielder. It is the second summer in a row (probably the fourth in reality) that Ferguson has not gone for a midfielder, and Cleverley has to be the reason.
In terms of his hunger and style, he does remind me of a young David Beckham. He has great work rate and Man Utd is in his blood. However he is not Beckham, and he is behind him in terms of where Beckham was at 23. Cleverley has to start putting in performances that makes you believe he is going to be a top Manchester United player. Anfield is the arena to make such a statement and he has to rise to the challenge now.
I can see tomorrow being a massive test for three players really. Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Johnny Evans all have to step up now and show they are going to be top Man Utd footballers. These three have risen through the youth ranks and have to start showing that they belong at this level. We want them to be apart of Man Utd for the next 10 years, but they have to earn that right.
The defence is an area of concern right now and Evans has to believe he is the man for the shirt. Vidic is captain but he has struggled since his return. Ferdinand is still quality but he is 34 and injury prone. The opportunity is there for Evans to finally take over and build a partnership with Vidic this season. Confidence is the key but his ability on the ball in improving and he needs to keep adding to his game, including leadership.
Welbeck has a difficult task of trying to get ahead of Rooney and Van Persie. He has though been involved in every game this season. I can see him playing tomorrow and starting on the left side of a 4-2-3-1 formation. I know its not his favoured role perhaps but he played very well in that position for Sunderland. It a role he has played before and I hope he can start improving from that position. Nani is lacking confidence and is starting to lose the fans. Welbeck has to see that role as his to take and make his own. Hulk played there for Porto and was excellent, as is Neymar when he plays in that role. Welbeck has to see it as a challenge. The role requires creating and scoring goals and he can do it.