Only trophies matter for Cleverley

The only measurement Tom Cleverley will use to assess his career will be silverware.

Football News: Tom Cleverley.

He may be a regular for Manchester United and England, have his own clothing range, brand image and glamorous girlfriend - but so far, Cleverley's trophy cabinet is a bit on the light side.

A League One title at Leicester and a Community Shield win over Manchester City at the start of last season do not amount too much for a player Sir Alex Ferguson has said will become one of the foremost midfielders of his generation.

So even if Cleverley makes his fifth successive England start in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier with Poland in Warsaw, and retains his place in the United side following that amazing goal at Newcastle last Sunday, the 23-year-old will not be claiming superstar status.

"I don't know if I would ever say I have made it," he said.

"Careers can be judged on appearances and titles, and I have not got many of either so there is a long way to go."

It has been suggested Cleverley has too many off-field distractions for someone who has still only made 21 senior appearances for United.

The Bradford-raised star bristles at such talk.

"I don't want to sit here and say I am completely level-headed but it does annoy me a bit when people say I am getting ahead of myself," he said. "I have got my feet on the floor and have already tried to stay grounded.

"I got a day off on Saturday and went back to my mum's in Bradford. She would slap me down if it was needed."

Cleverley's ascent could hardly be described as meteoric either.

At various points he was loaned out to Watford, Leicester and Wigan, and before his breakthrough came at the start of last season, he had reached an age when Ferguson is willing to declare many fledgling United careers over.

"I was lucky Manchester United put their faith in me because maybe some other clubs wouldn't," said Cleverley.

"I was always very small as a youngster, and went out on loan to three clubs.

"When you then see world-class players doing well and winning titles at United, it does seem a hard mountain to climb."

Cleverley's task was not made any easier by the injuries that wrecked last season just after he had played a central role in United's flying start.

"Obviously that was a massive disappointment," he said.

"But I am a big believer that if you work hard enough, you can achieve as much as you want."

Cleverley's most recent achievement was to convince Ferguson he actually meant the wonder goal he scored at Newcastle last week.

It was the second time he found the net against Alan Pardew's men in a matter of days, and came not long after he was condemned for two glaring misses during England's disappointing draw with Ukraine a month ago.

As Cleverley also blew a glorious chance in that first Capital One cup-tie against Newcastle that earned a dressing down from his manager, the Basingstoke-born player is relieved to finally get off the mark.

Now he wants more, aware that with Frank Lampard missing, England need someone else to start threatening from midfield positions.

"It was bugging me," he said. "It has been a target to score more goals.

"I was getting into positions and not having that final finish.

"Now the first one has gone in and the second has quickly followed, hopefully I can kick off my international tally on Tuesday - if I play."

It is an if, because with Steven Gerrard returning, at least one place will be lost.

Gerrard's selection also means Wayne Rooney will lose the captain's armband, although Cleverley believes his Manchester United team-mate will eventually get it back, having shown all the qualities required to do the job on a full-time basis.

"He was quite vocal in the dressing-room before the game," said Cleverley.

"He was chipping in with points to improve the team.

"He is a leader and has all the attributes to be a top-class captain, and I definitely agree with the manager when he says he can captain in the long-term."

Maybe even like Roy Keane, who Rooney claimed was the best captain he ever worked under.

"When you want to win badly you'll do anything to achieve it," said Cleverley.

"If people need telling, even in training, Wazza's not afraid to do it."



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