Former and current managers defend Tom Cleverley, is criticism unfair?

The Manchester United midfielder has come in for a lot of hefty criticism lately, which has included a petition to calling for him not be selected for the England national side.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has argued that Tom Cleverley is one of the best midfielders of his generation amidst a barrage of criticism for the Manchester United midfielder.

Martinez will know Cleverley from his time at Wigan Athletic – where he spent a season on loan at the DW Stadium where he scored four goals and provided two assists during the 2010/11 season.

Martinez is quoted, saying: “Maybe he has been given a bigger role than he should have been given but even so it is ridiculous to put someone so young in the spotlight then knock him down. We as a public are to blame if we allow that to happen. You have to help the young players reach a level.”

His current manager at Manchester United, David Moyes has - as expected - defended his player and spoke highly of him saying: "Tom Cleverley is a fantastic young player who is developing all the time. He is a great trainer and he is someone who is first out and every day does his best in training."

Cleverley is now 24 and many will argue that he’s no longer at the age where he can be regarded as a youngster – that it should be a time where he should be stepping up and making great strides in his career, and establishing himself as a consistent performer in a good side.

Cleverley regards himself as a midfielder who prides himself on keeping hold of possession, probably similar to his team-mate Michael Carrick. Carrick has been praised for his performances at Manchester United for the past couple of seasons, so probably won't receive as much criticism - but has been more wasteful in possession per appearance than Cleverley.

NameTeamPosAccurate Pass / appsAppsMins
Michael Carrick Man Utd MF 63.89 19 1,603
Juan Mata Man Utd MF 57.60 5 430
Tom Cleverley Man Utd MF 49.21 19 1,449
Marouane Fellaini Man Utd MF 42.22 9 534
Darren Fletcher Man Utd MF 33.00 6 239

However the statistics do show that he probably does see more of, and pass the ball more, probably because he has spent more time on the field than Cleverley. But they both play a position that isn't the most glamorous and probably fulfil similar roles in David Moyes' set-up.

NameTeamPosPoss Lost All / appsAppsMins
Juan Mata Man Utd MF 15.80 5 430
Nani Man Utd MF 14.75 8 427
Adnan Januzaj Man Utd MF 13.65 20 1,176
Luis Antonio Valencia Man Utd MF 13.35 23 1,616
Ashley Young Man Utd MF 12.00 15 740
Shinji Kagawa Man Utd MF 10.56 9 588
Michael Carrick Man Utd MF 10.47 19 1,603
Tom Cleverley Man Utd MF 7.95 19 1,449
Marouane Fellaini Man Utd MF 7.89 9 534
Anderson Man Utd MF 7.50 4 155
Ryan Giggs Man Utd MF 7.45 11 483
Wilfried Zaha Man Utd MF 6.00 2 28
Darren Fletcher Man Utd MF 5.50 6 239

As a result it is probably easy for Cleverley to be made a scapegoat. He has only scored the one goal and hasn't provided any assists so far this season. Last season he scored four times and provided six assists in all competitions - and the season before he didn't play many games because of injury.

Some can argue he is still developing, but maybe the change of style employed by Moyes compared to that of Ferguson. Some say he is still developing and the change of style can be a shock to the system, probably a bit like a player adapting to a new club.

Either way he is struggling for form, but given the nature of the position that Cleverley plays, and the style he claims to have he's probably not going to get the same amount of praise for a good performance as he will get criticism for a bad performance. 

image: © eschipul

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