Tom Cleverley Faces Crucial Four Days in His Manchester United Career

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentAugust 29, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11:  Tom Cleverley of Manchester United in action during the FA Community Shield match between Manchester United and Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium on August 11, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Tom Cleverley is facing four of the most crucial days of his Manchester United career.

And that's just off the pitch, not to mention a date with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday. 

Under David Moyes, Cleverley has started the season as first choice in the centre of midfield. Paired with Michael Carrick he hasn't missed a minute as United have beaten Wigan and Swansea and taken a point from Chelsea.

And that unblemished record will almost certainly continue when United travel to Liverpool this weekend. 

But if Moyes gets his way and brings in another midfielder before Monday's transfer deadline, Cleverley's days as a regular starter could be numbered. 

The former Everton manager has shown already this season his preference for a two-man midfield, and it will be Cleverley rather than Carrick who drops out to accommodate, say, Marouane Fellaini.

That's not to say he'll be sat on the bench twiddling his thumbs all season. 

United are in four competitions, so he'll get plenty of chances. But in the big games, the ones against City, Chelsea and Arsenal, he's likely to miss out.

It's perhaps no bad thing.

At 24, Cleverley is reaching his peak. But in the context of his United career, he's still a youngster. 

The strength and size of United's squad means that academy players don't break into the team until comparatively late on. 

He might be 24, but this is only his third season in the first team. The same is true of Danny Welbeck, who turns 23 in November.

An extra body in midfield will allow Moyes to take the pressure off the young man. 

When he suffers a dip in form or starts looking tired, he can give Cleverley the weekend off, order him to spend time with his partner and new-born baby and return to training refreshed.

But that won't be an option if Moyes misses out on his transfer targets. 

Cleverley will be first choice, and he'll be forced to mature very quickly. For a 24-year-old in just his third full season, running United's midfield is a huge responsibility. 

Last year, Sir Alex Ferguson was able to restrict Cleverley to 32 appearances. But without a new midfielder before the deadline, Moyes will expect him to play 50-plus.

In 10 years, we might look at this season as the one that made Tom Cleverley, the season that transformed him from squad player to key man.

We should know in four days.