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Tom Cleverley: The Brand

Last summer, the one thing that provided any consolation to the fact Paul Scholes had retired was that we had young Tom Cleverley ready to make the step up to the first team. The lad has bags of talent and after loans at Leicester, Watford and Wigan, was prepared to make his mark in the Premier League with United.

Cleverley started the season really well, first coming off the bench in the Community Shield victory over City. 2-0 down at half-time, Cleverley started the second half and had a real impact. He provided the assist for what was probably our best goal of the whole season to draw United level.

Cleverley then started all the following league games, including the 8-2 victory over Arsenal and the 3-0 win against Spurs, before getting injured early on after a wreckless Kevin Davies challenge at the Reebok. We had started the season flying, finally having a player (along with the help of Anderson, it has to be said!) other than Paul Scholes who was bossing the midfield. We were gutted that he was injured and the manager clearly was too, which is why he brought him back too soon against Everton six weeks later, only for him to off injured again with less than an hour played. That game, at the end of October, was the last we saw of him in the team until we went to Amsterdam in February.

In this absence, “TC23″ was born. Cleverley, who had played a total of five league games for Manchester United, had his own website. Yes, there had been loads of hype about him being “the next Paul Scholes” and there was no denying he had played really well in the opening games of the season, but was a website and brand really necessary? The “TC23 collection” is on it’s way.

Rio Ferdinand has had plenty of stick for all his off field ventures, including “producing” films with Ashley Cole, starting up his own clothing range and bringing out a magazine. Whilst I’ll never be a fan of this sort of thing, at least Rio has had a career to back this nonsense up with and is approaching retirement. He’s had ten years at Manchester United, won five league titles, captained us to European glory in 2008 and has close to 100 caps for England. What has Cleverley done?

The irony is that the player who Cleverley is tipped to replace is the last player who would ever have his own website or “PS18 collection”. It is also puzzling because the impression we’d been given of Cleverley was of a grounded and mature young player, who was in love with the game and who was desperate to make it at United.

Two years ago, Ollie Holt at The Mirror interviewed Cleverley and had nothing but good things to say about him.

There is something about him that tells you he has been at United since he was 11. He is assured, mature, single-minded and happy to make whatever sacrifices he needs to. He grew up in Bradford but the way he speaks makes him sound like a composite of Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.

His eyes light up twice. Both times it is something to do with training that brings animation to his features. Cleverley is someone in love with the game.

The first time it is the mention of some YouTube footage he has told the rest of the United first team squad about that makes him smile. The 30-second clip shows the Spain squad training and Valencia’s Juan Mata producing a dazzling piece of skill that involves dragging the ball behind one foot with the other and then nutmegging Real Madrid’s Raul Albiol all in the same movement.

The second time his face comes alive is when Cleverley, who turned 21 last week, talks about training at Carrington with the United first team squad. In particular, he says, watching Scholes and Giggs doing their job and pursuing their art is breathtaking.

Most players who have trained with Scholes, either for United or England, say that. They mention the way he strikes the ball and the joy of watching his technique.

A few hours later, Scholes lofted a perfect pass to Giggs who drove home a volley to seal United’s 3-0 win over Newcastle at Old Trafford.

“It’s the way nothing fazes them, too,” Cleverley says. “You can learn so much from those two. They don’t have to say anything to you. You just have to watch them. It’s their temperament and they take that into the pitch. I have been watching Scholes all through pre-season so it didn’t shock me when he put in a ­performance like he did in the Community Shield. He is not the type to sit you down and have a heart-to-heart chat with you but he is a great mentor for me.”

Cleverley, like many footballers, has a Twitter account to go with his website. He uses this to talk about football, promote Adidas and give away prizes. Having made the Olympic squad, Cleverley went to Twitter for his reaction.

R_o_M: “Why does @tomclevz23 have to spoil himself with all this brand/website/commersialised shite? Imagine if he shared dressing room with Keane…”

Fair play to Cleverley for responding when it would be far easier to ignore any criticism and just get on with it but rather than styling himself as the next David Beckham, it would be great if he could just get his head down and get on with fulfilling the potential.

I hope it did! If you compare this situation with Danny Welbeck, his good mate at the club, who’s spent the season in Manchester United’s starting XI and now, England’s starting team too, you can see the stark difference. At their age, their only focus needs to be on improving their game and keeping their place in the team.

“Matt Busby summed it up perfectly, that you don’t need to chase money at a club like Manchester United, it will eventually find you,” Ferguson said last season. “If you’re good enough, you will earn money and become rich playing for Manchester United.”

Here’s to Tom Cleverley spending next season in United’s starting XI, bossing games like he did at the start of last season, and leaving “TC23″ alone for a while.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

View all posts by Scott »



  1. RedHound says:

    Funny how his face for some reason reminds me of a younger Beckham

  2. Jeet says:

    It’s a different game now… fair play to him if he makes some money, just so long as it doesnt mess up with his on-field endeavours. And he did seem to reply decently to StR.If we need to blame anybody, blame the marketers, the media, and the celebrity-worshipping public who buy into this. “Brand Cleverly” – WOW, based on exactly what underlying asset? Fuck me, somebody tell me how I can make some money out of a business model like this…I guess the first step is to get on fartbook and twatter… :(

  3. LUHG says:

    I hope TC will do a great and full season, I love that player.

  4. keano99 says:

    Its hard for us older folk to get our head around all this brand and twitter stuff he has done nothing for united as a first team player per say he needs to get his head down and play football and look after himself I don’t think he should be involved in the olympics he miss far to much football for us last season and should go on tour with his team mates and be ready for the start of the season. Let’s hope he’s not another beckham because I agree with scott the charity sheeld goal was our best last season and he was outstanding in those early games. And well done to scott for asking him what all the off field crap is all about. I just want to see him in our first team for the next 10 years or so.

  5. Jay says:

    All players do it some do it better, but you are right he hasn’t achieved anything yet. Players like Messi, Ronaldo, Beckham and Rooney make good money based on their image and it can set them up for life after football, so I do understand why players do it but first he needs to establish himself. Branding for a player not only makes money for the player but also the club, the Beckham effect helped United generate a lot for United. Ronaldo also did the same thing in fact taking that into account Beckham and Ronaldo went for cheap to Real Madrid.

  6. mfanelosiziba says:

    We have a great player in the form of TC.Hop next term wil b joy 4 man u supporters.

  7. Alom says:

    LOL after read all the tweets back and forth from Scott and Tom I KNEW this post would be coming…

    I agree with both your points btw.. its good that he did reply and also lets hope that if it really did “touch a nerve” – he can use that to finally show us what we was missing last year!!

  8. TheCANTONA says:

    Agree with Scott. Our young players should only focus on football’s matters.
    I’d remember Liverpools youngsters in 90s, they did a lot commercials deals, jamie redknapp, david james, robbie fowler. They spent more time off the pitch &failed to fullfill their potential.
    Compared their attitude with Giggsy, Scholes & the Nevilles who solely focus on football. I know which type of players i really want. WELL SAID Scott!

  9. Mufc,kids,wife, says:

    Ppl that know him say he is a sound lad,should just let him get on with it,as long as it don’t afect his game who cares

  10. markynorbs says:

    Can’t wait to see Tom in action next season. Future United hero in the making I think? And my misses fancy him too. Viva TC

  11. Bishopville Red says:

    Fergie will nip this in the bud by giving him squad number 45 this year. Just a little shot across the bow, son.


  12. King Eric says:

    What makes people think Tom isn’t getting his head down? Last I heard he was doing loads of work in the gym and having sessions on vision.

  13. CedarsDevil says:

    Love the picture and I fucking love wee Thomas…….Come on son, make it your season and just stay injury free

  14. CedarsDevil says:


    Ha ha, your Mrs has taste mate!

  15. United Till I Die says:

    Thought the same thing when someone posted his website last season – from what I recall it was very swanky Lol – but this is a balanced article and im glad Cleverley responded accordingly. It IS a new day in football and the exploitation of commercial rights isn’t gonna disappear anytime soon. If anything its expanding all the time with technology (like the odd pop-up advert we see on ROM!) so fair play to Tom for staking his claim before he’s bootlegged halfway round the world tbh.

    Still, its important he keeps his head down during the season and leaves his commercial brain a million miles from Manchester United. I’d hate to see his on-field decision-making affected by business interests. That would be embarrassing for him and us.

    Having said that, it WAS a breath of fresh air seeing him and Anderson bringing energy and life to our midfield play. Tom looks like a top player in the making and he was brilliant to watch at the start last season. Make this season yours but for fuck sake don’t step across that line with stars in your eyes!

    Good Article, and that photo is bordering between inspired and blasphemy!

  16. kevin says:

    Cleverley was our best player at the start of last season – he gets Rooney and Wellbeck playing their best stuff. If it wasn’t for that Kevin Davies challenge we’d have won the league last year!

    I hope he can stay away from injuries and not struggle like Anderson has.

    His Twitter replies and MUTV stuff all make him look like a decent lad. As Rio would say #stayfocused

  17. Clint-Iamyourpapii says:

    Clevs is good lad, no problem from my POV about his off field activities.

    George Best was a rockstar and was still the best.


  18. denton davey says:

    Kevin @ 13:21: “Cleverley was our best player at the start of last season – he gets Rooney and Wellbeck playing their best stuff. If it wasn’t for that Kevin Davies challenge we’d have won the league last year!”

    It ain’t bragging if you can do it – alas (and unfortunately) YoungTom has NOT done it yet. Will he ? who knows but I’m sceptical. Sceptical, but hopeful that the praise he’s received from SAF and ROM’s KingEric (!) isn’t misplaced. One thing is for sure, though – he has to prove himself this season or join Anderson as another member of the nearly-men club.

  19. The WitchKing of Angmar says:

    Well for me, I have no issues with his off field commercial endeavours as long as it doesn’t distract him and inhibit his performances on the field. He has claimed that he remains focused on his game and the commercial stuff is for later so I would prefer to cut him some slack. Cheers Clevz.

  20. denton davey says:

    By the way, anyone think that the “rumours” (yeah, I know, it’s silly-season) linking UTD with Moutinho and Axel Witsel have any credibility ?

    Moutinho is an attacking midfielder and if he’s purchased then what would that say to YoungTom ?

    Witsel is a box-to-box midfielder, with a nasty streak according to opponents, so he might be seen as a like-for-like replacement for DarrenFletcherinho.

  21. Jeet says:

    Thanks Xavi, for rubbing it in, you bastard….

  22. Jeet says:

    @Denton: If you ask me, the moutinho rumors are bull – happened precisely when he got noticed in Euros. Witsel – loooong shot. I wouldn’t mind either of them though.

  23. LoneStarRed says:

    Good Luck this season TC.

  24. alfREDo says:

    Forza TC!!

  25. Zibbie says:

    HAHAHAHAHA LOVE TC23!!!!!!!!!!

  26. Costas says:

    Sign of the times. And as someone accurately said on twitter, it’s hard to get Tom’s head away from the clouds now. As soon as he burst into the scene at the Community Shield many fans (me included) started billing him as the next Scholes or better than signing Sneijder. And as soon as he got injured and United’s performances started deteriorating (although imo there’s no big connection between the two), things got worse. Imagine how many thousands of tweets he got in his (musteriously and ridiculously extended) absence telling him how much we miss him. Anyone could overestimate their populatiry after that.

    Anyway, I hope he returns from the Olympics fresh and healthy. Our midfield desperately needs a new face. May it be him.

  27. Stenis says:

    I say leave Tom alone. He’s had a rough time being injured. It’s not as if it’s an uncommon thing these days, and if it’s helped him keep his spirits up during his time out then I’m all for it.

  28. Doghouse says:

    In fairness to TC he’s getting prodded at and probed by all sorts of marketing guys all the time and let’s be honest that won’t happen to Welbeck. Advertising guys want an incredibly talented white lad to sell stuff, the next Beckham or Rooney, and lads like TC or Wilshere are going to be getting tapped up with that a lot.

    People are going to try to turn his head. And they’ll succeed, because they do this for a living. These guys will be paid a small fortune to get into TC’s head, and other players, and lure them into the path of fame and fortune outside of the game. And all of our players need to be aware of that and be careful.

    When TC was fit for us last season he delivered. Anything he did while injured is up to him I reckon, but he’ll need to stay focussed. He is trying to fill the boots of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, two of the greatest athletes in sporting history. If he wants to be the next big thing in the United midfield, then he needs to get serious. I mean Scholesy is like some sort of football Samurai, a pure, dedicated, footballing master. If that’s what TC wants to become he needs to put aside the distractions and devote himself to his art.

  29. WillieRedNut says:

    Well done lad for responding. You could’ve ignored it. There’s worse things he could be involved in. Falling out of bars, for one. Expecting every player to be like a Paul Scholes is stupid. The latters a family man, not interested in TW, or anything like that. I don’t get the impression he’s getting a big head. If I thought he was, I’d air my views on it. He’s a young lad who suffered a bad challenge by Davies, that curtailed his impressive start. Lets not get on his back too early. If setting up a website is what gives him some comfort, when he was out injured, then I don’t see any problem with it. Just as long as he doesn’t expand too much energy. Cleverley has got the talent. All he needs is stay to fit. Here’s hoping!

  30. WillieRedNut says:


  31. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Get in Tom! Clevers is a great footballer but has had bloody bad luck with injuries. Hope he pops back to the form he had v Arsenal.

    8-2 admit it, but that was stand out game. ;) :lol:

  32. King Eric says:

    Willie – Great post mate.

  33. WillieRedNut says:

    Scott’s getting some grief off Tom’s people on Twitter for this. Does TC know about this? Face to face meetings they want with Scott. Don’t know why, like. Everyone is entitled to their opinions.

    King Eric – Cheers pal! I can see Scott’s pov, but disagree with it.

  34. Costas says:


    Just saw that. If that person is actually an associate of Tom’s, then he’s surrounded himself with some real leeches. Won’t help him keep his feet on the ground I am afraid.

  35. WillieRedNut says:

    Costas – Bang out of order. I hope TC isn’t behind this. In this line of work, you have to be able to take criticism on the chin.

  36. k9 says:

    Oi STR, I don’t mean to be a total grammar-Nazi, but don’t you mean reckless Kevin Davies challenge?

    Anyway, I agree partly with you on Tom focusing and all, but I know how it feels to be injured, and there’s not much you can do at that time. Might as well go do something that cracks you up…

  37. DohaRed says:

    I really enjoyed watching Cleverley come through at the start of the season. He looks a bit frail though, and the worry is that he never develops into a top player because of constant injuries. We need someone to protect him from cunts like Kevin Davies. That cunt should have been banned for the whole season, in fact for life, after the game against us. Cunt just went looking for legs to break, did fuck all else all game.

  38. NGB says:

    What, the guy was injured. And he can’t have some fun? What is wrong in opening a website? I don’t get it. Do we need our players to be monks or something? So what, he likes an advert. I like it too! He is being himself. As long as he plays well, and devotes toward MU, which I think he does, there shouldn’t be a problem.

  39. NotoriousRedDevil says:

    First things first. Hypocrisy rises again on ROM, not at Scott but posters. Anybody who’s been giving Rio shit should feel the same about Cleverly..I mean TC23.

    The alarm bells started ringing when I heard about the website and clothing range last year. Then “apparently” split with a long term girlfriend to go out with some bird from The Only Way Is Essex (reliable source).

    It’s the modern age and this will go on forever now. All men love earning money, and nothing wrong with trying to earn more on the side irrespective of how much you earn. They train 5 hours a day or something like that, what the fuck are they supposed to do with their spare time? The pint glass challenge? Play PS3 all day? Good use of his time, if he was Indian Mum and Dad (especially Dad) would be very proud that he’s learning business as well as football.

    Look at Neil Webb, promising player now he’s a fucking postman? Doubt he’s earning anywhere near as much as he did as a footballer. Maybe thats what he’s trying to avoid?

    Since Ambitiongate other than Scholes, Giggs, Rio and Berbatov (Fuck You If You Have a problem with me putting Berba in there.) I feel nothing but apathy towards what footballers do off the pitch. They mostly act like cunts and need to learn to have some humility. They aren’t nice people end of story.

    We as fans need to get with it because quite frankly a lot of the posts make a lot of people sound like the “Two Old Gits” from Harry Enfield and Chums!

  40. Mozza79 says:

    I don’t think the “touched a nerve” comment was for you. I think he was talking about his Olympic call up and unsurprisingly got the phrasing wrong. Rio replied to that particular post congratulating him.

  41. WillieRedNut says:

    NRD – Me and you have been Rio’s biggest supporters on here. So, I know you’re not talking about me! :P

  42. iDon says:

    Kevin Davies you bitch, you moron, everytime I think about his tackle I get frustrating and very angry … So good that I don’t have the permission to go to England :P

  43. ctl131 says:

    I dont see why its anyone’s business as to what he does in his spare time. Should be have to focus on improving as a footballer every second of every day? Do you come home from your job and put in an extra 6 hours of your own free time to improve? Honestly people, have a bit of perspective. Football is a profession, and like every other profession, footballers are bound to pursue other interests. So what if Cleverley is coming out with a clothing line, maybe he’s got an eye for fashion. Who gives a shit. There is no way to say that his off field endeavors have effected his play on the field so he should just be left alone. I think he said ROM’s question touched a never because its none of STR’s business what he does when he isn’t donning the red shirt, if people were hounding me about making some money on the side of whatever I’m doing I’d be pissed off too.

  44. Mr C says:

    @NotoriousRedDevil July 3, 2012 at 16:56:

    Stellar comment! Too fucking right….


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