Tom Cleverley has admitted that receiving stick from his own supporters, the Manchester United fans, has hurt him in past seasons. The 24-year-old is now determined, under the management of Louis van Gaal, to silence his critics.
Cleverley has impressed on United’s successful pre-season tour of the US and says that past criticism has made him all the more determined to succeed at Old Trafford.
Cleverley speaks out
“It makes you develop a lot thicker skin,” the England international told reporters. “You’ve just got to take it on the chin. It’s football.
“Fans are passionate and they like to see their team win. And when their team isn’t winning, they’ve got a right to look at the team. I will use it as a learning curve and not dwell on it as a negative.
“Yeah, I got a bit of stick. It does hurt when it comes from your own fans, I suppose it would anyone really. I definitely want to prove a few people wrong.”
Cleverley enjoying life under Van Gaal
The central midfielder, who has been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal in recent months, was expected to become one of the first names to leave Manchester United following the arrival of Van Gaal - but appears to have impressed the experienced Dutch coach out in America.
Cleverley often found himself on the substitutes’ bench under Van Gaal’s processor, David Moyes, but the midfielder says he is now solely focusing on the future.
“I’m not here to talk about David Moyes,” he continued. “We’ve got a clear way we are going to play under the new manager. We all believe in that, we are all following that and I think the main thing is we are playing as a team again.
“Under the new manager we are being told to think of things as a team but personally it has gone well. I definitely think I can fit into the way he plays. I don’t think I have got to make much adaptation because he likes passers, movers, and people who understand the game.”
Cleverley targets England spot
Cleverley was a regular feature for the England national team during their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign, but lost his place ahead of the showpiece international tournament in Brazil.
He now hopes to secure a place in Roy Hodgson’s squad for the Euro 2016 qualification campaign - as well as the tournament itself in France in two years time.
“I would still have loved to have gone (to the World Cup) but I think I made it hard for myself to go to Brazil with not playing in the last three months of the season,” Cleverley admitted. “I played in a lot of the qualifiers, but I’m not bitter about it. I’m fully hoping to get back into the squad and help us get to the next Euros.”
Watch: Cleverley in action for Man Utd
Can Cleverley win the United supporters over?
United fans are desperately hoping that Van Gaal splashes the cash on another world-class central midfielder to accompany £29 million summer signing Ander Herrera this season.
Juventus star Arturo Vidal is currently the name on every United fan’s lips - and they would be devastated, and a little bemused, if their new manager pulls the plug on that potential deal in order to use the much-maligned Cleverley as one of his main central midfielders instead.
But the Englishman has looked comfortable and convincing on United’s pre-season tour - and might be poised to fulfil the potential that he undoubtedly possesses, thanks to Van Gaal’s coaching and guidance.
However, unless he shines in the opening matches of the 2014/15 season, Manchester United fans will continue to voice their frustration over Cleverley’s presence at Old Trafford.