Everton's first signing of the summer transfer window Tom Cleverley was a Manchester United player until the expiry of his contract there. The midfielder was in and out of the starting lineup at Old Trafford, and was sent out on loan to Aston Villa. We spoke to a Villa fan last week about the player, and we follow up with a Q&A with SB Nation Red Devils blog 'The Busby Babe'.
RBM - Can you tell us what we can expect from Tom Cleverley, both good and bad?
TBB - Frustration, in both a good and a bad way. If that makes sense. He doesn't make too many obvious mistakes. He's a willing enough runner. He's always looking to get involved in the game. These are good things. And yet, at least while he was at United, there is was almost always a yawning gap between the player he so desperately wants to be - the Bradford Iniesta - and the player he was. The Bradford Cleverley.
However, Roberto Martinez knows him, and Martinez likes him, and Martinez seems like the kind of manager that makes footballers feel good about themselves. So let's not rule out the possibility that some gentle pampering of the Cleverley ego might reawaken something within him. Certainly, Alex Ferguson used to rate him very highly indeed.
RBM - What led to the midfielder's exit from Manchester United? Any regrets?
TBB - Not being good enough, and so no, at least not from the United end. Maybe a lingering sense of unfulfilment: when he broke into the team he looked pretty good until an injury knocked him out for three or four months. Since then he's been peripheral, both in terms of his status in the squad and his performances on the pitch. And his being a berk off-pitch - on which more below - didn't leave him much sympathy either.
RBM - What is the best position for Cleverley on the field, that plays to his strengths?
TBB - You've wisely included the words "on the field" there, so I can't say "substitute". In the words of the man himself "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." So as long you don't mind having a midfielder who doesn't do any of that stuff, he'll be fine.
In theory, he's a kind of midfield lubricant, knocking short passes, making himself available for the return, keeping the ball moving, playing the pass before the pass before the chance. Again in theory, he could do that from the middle or coming in off the flank: I could be wrong, but I've got the vague idea that he played wide under Martinez at Wigan.
At United, however, more often than not he's was lubricious, more ... gluey. All of the above, but kind of slowly, in a way that helps nobody except the opposition. Still, his last month or so at Villa showed him getting into the box more: perhaps that's the sign of a little extra dynamism and forward thinking. Or perhaps that's just the only piece of tactical advice Tim Sherwood has ever given anybody.
RBM - Off the pitch, what do you know about him? Is he a vocal leader?
TBB - The man himself explained away his brief and peculiar rebranding as TC23 -- with an accompanying range of merchandise and a now sadly-defunct website -- as just something that came about while he was bored and injured. Which is maybe fine. The episode of the disappearing Mirror blog could, perhaps, be entirely coincidental. And it is generally agreed that he was not, in fact, responsible for the leaking of team information from both the United and Villa dressing rooms. But even being a generous as possible in every respect, there's still nothing been much to suggest that he isn't precisely what what he appears to be, which is a bit of a berk.
Thanks again Andi, we appreciate your time and input!