England boss Roy Hodgson has hit back at the criticism of Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley, and says he is 'disappointed' that a petition has been started to stop him being selected for his country.
Cleverley has been a target for criticism this season thanks to a string of underwhelming performances, but was still selected for England's squad to face Denmark at Wembley this evening.
Both Manchester United and Cleverly have endured a troubled season to date - but Hodgson believes it is a step too far to start a petition calling for him to be dropped.
Over 12,000 people have signed the petition, with one labelling Hodgson's selection of Cleverley in his 30-man squad 'footballing genocide'.
"I’m not going to have the England team selected by petitions holding it against one person for a team’s lack of success," he told reporters.
“I’m disappointed Tom, as a sensitive young man, has got to bear that burden — but I know he’ll come through it.
“And when he does come through it and United start winning again and he’s starting to get praise for his displays, he’ll be stronger for it.”
Manchester United are struggling in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, and currently sit in 6th place in the Premier League with David Moyes at the helm.
One of their biggest problems appears to be in midfield, and the Red Devils have been heavily linked with a host of players in that area in recent months.
Despite his struggles, Cleverley was the only player to start nine straight games after Euro 2012.
"The fact is that Tom, from the moment the Euros ended, has been a part of the England set-up," Hodgson continued.
“He’s played some very good games for us and been a very useful member of our group so I saw no reason, when selecting a larger group of players, to leave him out.
"Perhaps, right now, his team isn’t doing well and he’s receiving criticism for it.
“But I don’t think it’s right that people should single out one player for United’s lack of success this season.
“So Tom deserves to be in this 30. Whether he’ll make the 23 or not will depend on a lot of things, not least of all how he does in the next couple of months.”
The Manchester United man won't start for England this evening as they step up their preparations for the World Cup this summer.