Tom Cleverley is the latest homegrown product that Manchester United fans (on the internet) have chosen to single out for criticism. It’s important to remember that at Old Trafford and away from home, Cleverley doesn’t get booed or jeered, but on Twitter and online football forums, United fans talk about him with real hatred.
“When I first started getting singled out, it stung, yeah,” Cleverley says, “but it’s something you have got to learn to take when the team is not doing well. My job goes under the radar at times. I am not a player who’s going to beat three or four people and stick it in the top corner or go round tackling people like Roy Keane. I would like the fans on my side and it hurts a little bit when you have grown up at the club and love the club every bit as much as the supporters. But there are other people in the current United squad who have been through this kind of thing and they have made sure their quality shone through. I have got to look at those people. I have learned to take it with a pinch of salt and I’m sure it will make me stronger for the rest of my career. I feel I’ve been made a scapegoat a little bit. A few people in the media certainly seem to have a perception of me not doing much in the team. Don’t get me wrong, I know I can do better but people are making a big thing about how I don’t score enough goals when that is not necessarily my first job in the team.”
At the start of the 2011-2012 season, Cleverley looked the business, and people were quickly comparing him to Paul Scholes. Following a string of injuries and rarely getting a regular run in the team, Cleverley hasn’t developed in the way we would want him to.
Whilst I don’t think fans should blindly support and praise players, I also genuinely am at a loss as to why our fans give him such a hard time. He loves the club and he always gives 100%, but he isn’t good enough to hold down a place in United’s starting XI. Is that a reason to slag him off all the time? Phil Neville wasn’t good enough for our starting XI, neither was John O’Shea, neither was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for much of his United career, but the fans didn’t lay in to them with anywhere near the venom that Cleverley is on the receiving end of.
Cleverley of course didn’t help himself by creating his brand after playing just a handful of first team games, which is something I have been critical of him for, but I still desperately want him to do well. I’d still love it if he proved himself good enough to stick around at United for the rest of his career, even if as a squad player.
For too him many fans, it doesn’t seem to make any difference that he’s been at the club since he was 12 and is red through and through. I’m not suggesting that his history with the club means we should keep him even if he doesn’t make the grade, but I won’t take any pleasure if he’s deemed not good enough and shipped off. I find it confusing that we have fans who will be pleased with that.