Manchester United academy director Brian McClair has hinted that Tom Cleverley may still have a future at Old Trafford if he impresses on loan at Aston Villa, while sharing his pride in seeing seven academy graduates feature for the first-team already this season.
Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal has shown he's not afraid to throw youngsters in at the deep end amid an injury crisis which has affected a patchy start to his United tenure, with Tyler Blackett in particular experiencing a meteoric rise during the early part of the campaign.
Welbeck exit just part of the process
McClair has overseen Blakcett's development alongside a whole host of other starlets since taking over United's youth programme in 2006, and told ESPN that Cleverley is a tireless worker who could still surprise people by returning to United next season.
In a wide-ranging interview McClair was also asked about the £16m deadline-day exit of Danny Welbeck, who was quite surprisingly allowed to leave for Arsenal despite being a very popular figure at the Theatre of Dreams.
The Scot insisted: "I don't feel sorry (about Welbeck leaving). People remember Danny running into the gym as a six or seven-year-old at the old Cliff [United's previous training ground] and thinking there was something about him.
"He was a happy lad, he was enthusiastic and he was quick. He's come through the process. Factors have decided that he's no longer here but we're still proud of him even though he wears a different red shirt."
Never say never
Cleverley's loan switch to the Midlands is also viewed by McClair as an inevitable part of the process working with young players at a massive club, although he did share that the England international has already overcome a snub from United and emerged stronger as a result.
"Tom had a different route," McClair said. "He came from Bradford when he was 12. At 16 we didn't offer him a scholarship. He stayed at school and he worked as hard he possibly could, while still at school and at the end of that two-year period, because he had developed more physically, he had a professional contract.
"He's gone on from that to represent his country and to play many games in the Premier League. You don't know what's going to happen because he's only on loan at Villa. I think he's a good player."
It remains to be seen if regular starts at Villa revitaliser the playmaker's once promising career, but Van Gaal has shown by fielding Blackett, Paddy McNair, James Wilson and Jesse Lingard in the Premier League that there's plenty room for exciting youngsters alongside £150m worth of talent expensively assembled last summer.
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