Belfast Telegraph

Cleverley keeps feet on the ground

Tom Cleverley insists his rapid elevation into Manchester United's starting line-up has not changed him.

Although he had a successful spell at Wigan last season, Cleverley could hardly have predicted he would start United's first three Premier League games and win an England call-up. The 22-year-old is refusing to get carried away by all the plaudits, which will only magnify following Sunday's total humiliation of Arsenal at Old Trafford.

"Although I feel I improved in pre-season, I am still the same player and the same guy," he said. "Just because I am playing in United's first team, that doesn't all of a sudden make me a great footballer."

In the space of a few months Sir Alex Ferguson has transformed an ageing squad into one full of youth, energy and vibrancy. The standard of play Arsenal produced on Sunday may be open to question, but not the quality of United, who systematically took the Gunners apart, inflicting upon them their worst defeat since the 19th century.

Yet the mantra within the Red Devils camp is that the season is still only three games old.

"Nobody wants to get too carried away," said Cleverley. "But this is a youthful squad and it is exciting to be part of it. Some of us younger lads don't know what it is like to win the Premier League yet but that is where the experience of others comes into it. A few older players left the club in the summer but we have still got experience in abundance."

Even Ferguson must be slightly taken aback by the standard his youngsters have reached. Danny Welbeck kept Javier Hernandez on the bench against Arsenal until he suffered the hamstring injury that will keep him out for a month. Phil Jones and Jonny Evans ensured Rio Ferdinand got no further than a place amongst the substitutes.

All of this is underpinned by Ashley Young's seamless integration into Old Trafford life, and the excellence of Wayne Rooney, who, after last season's travails, is now back to the form that brought him 34 goals the year before.

Little wonder that after taking in Manchester City's equally staggering five-goal destruction of Tottenham at White Hart Lane, some are starting to say the Premier League is now a one-city carve-up. Rooney is having none of it.

"It is a great start for the two clubs," he reflected. "But Chelsea will always be there and whilst it is looking difficult for Arsenal, they are a great team, with a great manager and you can never write them off. Liverpool are doing well too, so I am sure there will be a few teams fighting it out."


From Belfast Telegraph