Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood has been pleased with Tom Cleverley's contribution since succeeding Paul Lambert as head coach at Villa Park, but admits the Manchester United loanee might still be struggling to handle the pressure that comes with being compared to Old Trafford legend Paul Scholes.
The Red Devils outcast has failed to fulfil the potential he showed during his formative years at the Theatre of Dreams, and was ditched by Louis van Gaal following his appointment as first-team boss last summer.
Cleverley moved to the Midlands on a temporary deal to see out the remainder of his Manchester United contract with Aston Villa, and Sherwood has talked up the possibility of the 25-year-old staying at the club beyond this season after impressing during his brief spell in charge.
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“I’ve been very pleased with him so far,” the former Spurs coach was quoted saying by the Birmingham Mail. “I’ve had a few chats with him and I don’t know whether he felt like he had the shackles on him before, but he certainly hasn’t now.
“He’s free to roam and get on the ball and make us play because that’s what we need. We need as many brave players as possible to go and get the ball.
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“I haven’t recognised he’s getting stick but when you have been hailed as the next Paul Scholes it puts a lot of pressure on you doesn’t it?”
Asked specifically about any plans to secure Cleverley's services long-term, Sherwood delivered an open-minded response after Aston Villa decided against exercising their option to sign the former England international in the January window.
“We’re assessing everyone to see what we need to do,” he explained. “But Tom Cleverley is a player in his own right. He’s only young and he’s got a big future ahead of him.”
Despite the fact Cleverley is yet to contribute a single goal or assist during his six-month spell with the Villains, Sherwood has backed his under-fire star to turn things around and find the goalscoring trail by deploying him in a more advanced position.
“I think he’s capable of scoring - I remember watching him for Watford when he scored about ten goals in a season on loan.
Lack of confidence
“You can either score or you can’t. He certainly can. I know Roy (Hodgson) used him as a No.10 at times. To do that you have to be able to score goals and he’s more than capable of doing that.
“He’s a good mover, he’s gets into good positions and I’m hoping that we can add goals to his game.”
Manchester United fans: What does the future hold for Tom Cleverley? Is there anywhere back for him at Old Trafford or should he sign permanently with Aston Villa? Share your thoughts below...