Having been linked with a summer move to Goodison Park, the Villa manager joked that he was concerned the on-loan midfielder might not want to inflict defeat upon the Toffees.
Tom Cleverley’s remarkable revival under Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood continued on Saturday afternoon, as Manchester United-owned midfielder put in a starring performance in the 3-2 home win over Everton.
Cleverley grabbed Villa’s third in the second-half with a neat finish to make it two goals in as many games, as Sherwood’s men would go on to claim three vital points towards their Premier League survival bid.
Speaking to the Daily Mail after the match, though, the Villa boss joked that he was somewhat worried his in-form loanee might not be up for the match given who the opposition were.
With his United contract expiring in the summer, the likes of the Guardian have reported that the England international is at top of Everton’s transfer wishlist, having spent the 2010-11 season on loan at Wigan Athletic under now-Toffees chief Roberto Martinez.
However, there was nothing to be concerned about in the end, as he proved far from reluctant to do damage to one of his rumoured suitors, running the midfield alongside new skipper Fabian Delph for the entire 90 minutes.
To no surprise, Sherwood was full of praise for his focus on the afternoon and, while it’s more likely his dominant showing will have only served to further increase Everton’s interest, the Villa manager remains confident that he can secure his signature on a permanent basis.
"I was a bit worried when he went through [for the goal] – I thought he might be keeping an eye on Everton for next season," joked Sherwood. "But he was tremendous, tireless around the pitch and showed a real cool head in front of goal.
"I've told Tom I want to keep him but it'll be up to him. He'll have a choice to make because I would think there would be a number of teams interested in him.
"He's enjoying his football here. I don't believe putting square pegs in round holes and I don't ask my players to do things they can't do."
Everton manager Martinez made no secret of his admiration for his former Latics loan star either, telling Sky Sports: "I worked with Tom in the past at Wigan and he is a player I know really well.
"He came to Aston Villa and as you can imagine he is defending Aston Villa. He has got a very important aim to fight for so we never speak about a player who is not registered with Everton.”