The Champions League thriller between Manchester United and Real Madrid last season feels like a long time ago.

This was a match where United were tested against Europe's elite to see if they could still compete at the top level.

A controversial red card and a year later, the two clubs have experienced seismic differences in their respective fortunes, with Madrid contesting for the Champions League and La Liga once again, and United...well, you know.

However, many seem to forget, during these two legs, the likes of Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley flourished under this pressure. Cleverley in particular competed valiantly against stars such as Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira. 

Since United's dramatic loss to Madrid on March 5 2013, Cleverley has lost his confidence. Sir Alex Ferguson obviously witnessed this first hand, as he only picked the midfielder five more times that season.

Cleverley's form has been disappointing during this campaign considering he was the player who scored a screamer against Newcastle last season (whether it was intentional or not).

The English midfielder recently said in an interview with The Daily Mirror, that he feels he's been made to blame for United's troubles this season:

“I feel I’ve been made a scapegoat a little bit. A few people in the media certainly seem to have a perception of me not doing much in the team," he said.

Has he?

This was before a petition to keep him from going to the World Cup in Brazil began, so what has he been doing wrong?

In a sense, Cleverley's a victim of his own success. After fantastic loan spells at Watford and Wigan, the future seemed bright after an inspiring debut campaign with United during the 2011/2012 season.

His partnership with Anderson that season was particularly enlightening, however this was until Cleverley got injured in October, which saw him out of action until February. 

After losing the title by one point to Manchester City that season, he, along with the rest of the United squad, showed tremendous fightback to cruise to a 20th league title last year. 

Although Cleverley has said that "I am not a player who's going to beat three or four" his quick passing and touch are his greatest assets. 

When he's on top form, Cleverley's ability to pick a pass, move, receive the ball, find another team-mate, is vital for any side. It is this injection of pace and precision that has deserted him this season.

His lack of confidence is restricting him. Instead of making a one-two and trying to open an opportunity for his side, he plays the easy passes that United fans aren't used to seeing their midfielders play. 

His passing against Olympiacos in particular was dreadful, with a pass either going sideways or backwards. 

In some cases, it's not always a bad thing. Barcelona have been renowned for stalling with the ball at times, but Cleverley, as he will know, is no Xavi. 

He hasn't inherited or learned the ability to make a defence-splitting pass for one of his forwards. 

This limits his overall play; when he can't do the simple things really well, he's shown up, which has been the case this season. 

It may be that David Moyes needs to loan the midfielder out, to gain some confidence once more at a smaller club and ease the pressure on his shoulders. However, whatever Cleverley decides for the best of his career, he faces an incredible task of character and will-power. 

This season, we've witnessed the outstanding resurgences of Jordan Henderson and Aaron Ramsey and there is no reason why Cleverley can't follow in their footsteps, although at 24, time is running out for the player who was once tipped to replace Paul Scholes.

Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here:

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.