Cleverley opens up on his United struggles
Tom Cleverley has discussed his time at Manchester United during the latest UTD Podcast, admitting he feels he could have achieved much more at Old Trafford.
The Watford midfielder rose through the Academy ranks and helped Sir Alex Ferguson's team win the Premier League title in 2012/13 but does reflect with a lot of regret on his days with the Reds, and feels there were various factors behind his failure to kick on after pinning down a place with United and England, winning 13 caps for his country.
He reveals almost a sense of jealousy when it came down to comparing himself to contenders for his place, such as Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, and confesses to wanting to be more carefully treated when his confidence was at a low ebb, at a time when social media criticism was starting to become an issue within the game.
"It’s a bit of a weird dynamic isn’t it, football clubs," he told UTD Podcast hosts Helen Evans, Sam Homewood and David May. "Your team-mate is your first opponent for your position.
"So there are not many industries where that happens. But I just remember the training with Scholsey and being jealous of how good he was! I’m competing with this guy who doesn’t misplace or mishit one ball. Yeah, it does wind you up some days. You think, “How am I going to get in this team?”
"I think when you talk about careers like Carras, because his lasted 10 years, my best year was a good year but it only lasted one year. To keep that success, drive, desire, over 10, 15 years, people like this, you can’t speak highly enough of them. To deal with dips in form and disappointments and just to keep coming back and they’re not only the best ability-wise, they’re the best mentality-wise."
Cleverley, now 33, does feel Sir Alex's departure was a blow for him, as well as the club, and it had a big impact on his confidence and, subsequently, his performances throughout a difficult campaign.
"I’m not shy to admit that the season with David Moyes scarred me a lot," he explained. "I’m not saying anything bad about David Moyes. I thought he was a great football manager. But that season, 2013/14, mentally scarred me.
"I lost confidence and I think when it sort of scars you for a few years, you start to doubt yourself and things like that. I think on a football pitch, as I say, you need to be instinctive in everything you do. So if you’re second-thinking every decision you make, you become half the player you should be and I was doing that for a season.
"It was always my dream to play for Man United and, at the time, as a young lad from Bradford, I felt like a failure doing it and it’s a bit of a crazy way to think, playing for United and England. But, at the time I was playing poorly, and it was really the start of social media being toxic and I found it hard to deal with, to be honest.
"I didn’t help myself at times," he conceded. "People sort of probably got the wrong impression of me sometimes when I first burst on the scene. I had this haircut and things like that. You take a period of time finding yourself and I’d not quite done that until I was in my mid-20s.
"I think that’s the one thing maybe and I’ll never speak bad about David Moyes, like I said. But I think, I kept playing. There were even times when I was thinking: 'I shouldn’t be playing here'. I think the manager would have taken, Sir Alex would have taken me out of the firing line, get six weeks out of the team, get your head back, get your form back, get fit and then sort of reset.
"I just never had that. I was thinking: “God, next week. City. I’m low in confidence. We’re playing terrible'. We got beat 3-0 at home.
"Listen, the fans are great with young players who come through because there’s a buzz and it’s one of their own and we’re the same here at Watford. But I think when it does turn bad over a spell of six months, a year, and you’ve not earned your stripes, like your [Robin] van Persies and people like that, it can turn pretty bad against you quick."
Watch and listen to the full UTD Podcast episode with Tom Cleverley from Tuesday onwards.