Can Tom Cleverley’s career be salvaged within Everton ranks?
Having so far endured an indifferent Premier League career, Tom Cleverley almost went from being a constantly under-fire Manchester United scapegoat to an Aston Villa FA Cup hero in the space of only 12 months, but his latest club move could see his future take another drastic turn for better or worse.
Casting back to Cleverley’s penultimate game at Old Trafford last season; which could be one of his last ever at the club, the midfielder was replaced at half-time at the request of former Red Devils boss David Moyes as United went a goal down to rivals Man City in an eventual 3-0 defeat on home soil, after another underwhelming performance which saw him taken apart from a midfield onslaught.
For those 45 minutes, Cleverley looked completely out of sorts against the attacking attributes of the likes of David Silva and Yaya Toure, as he was simply outclassed.
However, having netted just once that season, ironically against Villa, a year later the United loanee struck three times in his final five league games for Sherwood’s side; after being granted the freedom to charge forward in search of goalscoring chances, and a move to Everton now seems likely (odds-on 4/9 with Coral).
Having already seen his career go drastically from one extreme to the next, the Bradford City and United youth product will now seek a permanent switch to another Premier League outfit, with his current contract expiring at Old Trafford, but it is sure to be a move that is met with little or any emotion from the Stretford End faithful, sadly.
Cleverley’s season-long loan spell at Villa Park, which was the fourth temporary stint away from his demanding parent club, began roughly under Paul Lambert, but as the arrival of Tim Sherwood saw the Villans’ position in the top-flight table gradually appear more respectable, so too did the midfielder’s form.
As well as the ongoing encouragement from confident coach Sherwood, the club’s newly revitalised competition for places saw Cleverley thrive and he soon repaid faith shown in him by his new mentor with more admirable showings, which lacked in recent campaigns.
Villa will be keen to secure his services on a permanent basis (13/8 to join), but the midfielder’s heart seems to be set on a switch to Goodison Park, with Roberto Martinez’s Toffees currently in negotiations to complete a free transfer this summer.
Within the Everton ranks, Cleverley could again begin to recapture his revitalised form on a more regular basis, having shown glimpses of his better self in the West Midlands, and another stern contest for midfield places should benefit his talents and drive.
Republic of Ireland international anchorman James McCarthy is now a mainstay of Everton’s central area, while Gareth Barry has earned the right as his midfield partner this term, but the re-emergence of Cleverley’s former teammate Darron Gibson and continued reliance on Ross Barkley will mean a starting place is no easy feat.
The rejuvenated Englishman would also be reunited with his former Wigan Athletic boss Martinez, where the pair worked successfully together for the 2010/11 campaign to steer the Latics clear of relegation. Cleverley was a stand out performer; striking the decisive goal in a 2-1 triumph over Wolves which saw the club climb out of the danger zone, and eventually secure their top-flight status, adding to his impressive three league strikes and two assists.
After gaining invaluable experience at Old Trafford, and repairing his reputation at Villa Park, could a move to the blue half of Merseyside see Cleverley finally prove his midfield credentials?
Those underlying talents have only so far been scratched, with Tottenham (12/1) and West Ham United (16/1) possibly also tempted by his services, but a switch to Everton looks an exciting prospect for both parties involved.