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|Birthday||August 12, 1989|
Heralded as a future midfield stalwart for Manchester United, it is as yet unclear if Cleverley will be able to live up to that billing after an injury-plagued season at Old Trafford.
The Basinstoke-born midfielder joined the United youth set-up at the age of 12 after a spell with Bradford City, though it would be a nine-year wait for his Red Devils first-team debut. Cleverley made his debut for United’s reserve team in 2007 and having flourished under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the first half of the 2008-09 season, he was sent on loan for his first taste of senior action with Leicester, where a successful six-month spell saw him help the club lift the League One title.
Having proved his ability in League One, Cleverley then did the same in the Championship while on loan at Watford the following season and then took the next step up in his stride when playing for Wigan in the Premier League in 2010-11. By that time he had established himself as an England Under-21 regular and having watched him impress for the Latics, Sir Alex Ferguson stated his desire to include the midfielder in his first-team plans for 2011-12.
Making his debut in the Community Shield victory over Manchester City, Cleverley’s display convinced Ferguson that he was good enough to slot straight into United’s midfield and he began the season with starts in each of the first four Premier League games – proving influential as United produced some stunning football including an 8-2 demolition of Arsenal. However, an ankle ligament injury picked up against Bolton in September ruined Cleverley’s season; after a couple of failed comebacks he returned to the side in February but looked a shadow of his former self and played only a bit-part role for the rest of the season. Despite struggling for form at the end of 2011-12, Cleverley received a call-up for the Great Britain Olympic team.
Strengths: An accomplished passer with an eye for an incisive ball, Cleverley also possesses enthusiasm in abundance.
Weaknesses: On the pitch, he lacks a bit of physicality and needs to use his energy more efficiently. Off the pitch, there is a concern that he could become distracted by ventures away from football – having set up his own website, launched the ‘TC23′ brand and become an adidas ambassador after just five first-team appearances for United.
Career high: Winning the 2011 Community Shield; Cleverley came on as a half-time substitute with United 2-0 down and helped engineer a comeback victory with a fine individual performance.
Career low: Injury against Bolton in September 2011 cruelly cut him down after a blistering start to his United career.
Style: Technically astute central midfielder with bundles of energy.
Quotes: “He, to my mind, is probably the best midfield player in Britain, potentially. He has fantastic promise.” Sir Alex Ferguson talks up Cleverley’s talents during the 2011-12 season.
Trivia: Cleverley was set to win a first England cap under Fabio Capello in August 2011 but was prevented from doing so after the game was postponed because of the London riots.