By Baz, an author from Vital Latics.
When I heard that the Latics were about to sign Manchester United youngster Tom Cleverley I admit that I thought Tom who?
Cleverley was one under the radar so to speak but I can tell you he most definitely left his mark in Wigan and I certainly know who Tom Cleverley is now.
During his loan spell with us he made 25 appearances of which 19 were starts and he scored 4 goals, quite impressive really, especially when you consider that he had two spells on the sidelines through injury, also United wouldn’t allow him to play in any of the cup competitions under the terms of his loan agreement.
Making his debut as a 75th minute substitute in the 1-1 draw against Sunderland at the DW Stadium in early September it took the England under 21 international until the 30th October to make his first start in a 2-0 away defeat against Fulham, this was largely due to an injury Cleverley picked up whilst away with the Under 21 squad.
Cleverley is an exciting, attacking midfield player, comfortable right, left or through the middle, he is very good on the ball, not an out and out dribbler, but he can still run at the opposition causing them problems. He has a great eye for a pass, steams into challenges, which considering his size and the fact that he only looks about 15 shows he has plenty of bottle. Cleverley is very much a team player, links up well with those around him and always looking to go forward, his biggest weakness would probably be his aerial threat, but this more down to his size than any lack of ability, I am sure as he ‘fills out’ a little more he will improve in this area.
The four goals that Cleverley scored for the Latics were all important; his first was the last goal in a 2-2 draw with Stoke City, giving the Latics a share of the points. Picking the ball up on the edge of the box Cleverley skipped inside and hit a shot that clipped a Stoke defender on its way into the back of the net. The goal he scored away to West Ham – by far his best goal. A beautiful curled shot from the edge of the area!
His next Latics goal came in a very impressive performance away at Wolves on Boxing Day, picking up a through pass from Hugo Rodallega following a great run losing his marker, he hit a side-footed shot first time under the body of Wolves keeper Hennessey, to put the Latics 2-0 up in a game we went on to win.
The third goal was against Birmingham towards the end of the season at the DW Stadium, it was a very edgy game and obviously there was a lot at stake, Birmingham had stolen the lead with their only attack so far of the first half and the crowd had started to get on the backs of the Latics players. Cleverley scored the Latics equaliser, reacting quickly to a parried shot, following up and firing home to equalise, we went on to win that game which was decisive in keeping us up and sending Birmingham down.
There was a lot more to Cleverley than goals though, obviously has he only scored four, his discipline on the field was fantastic, he never went ‘missing’, very good defensively covering back, great engine on him box to box, to be honest I can’t speak highly enough of him.
Will he fit into United’s side? Difficult question, out of the United squad I’d liken Cleverley mostly to Ji-Sung Park, definitely not a flair player, though he does have an abundance of skill, but it’s his other qualities that define him: work-rate, team play, always available, not afraid to shoot, tackling, or of the occasion.
If United are unsure we would keep him in a flash, Latics boss Roberto Martinez has been highly impressed and says that he’ll be asking about another loan but doesn’t think Ferguson will let it happen.