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Manchester United’s Cleverley has been more “average” than he’d like

Dec 13, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

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Tom Cleverley may be 24-years-old, but he’s endured the criticism of a much older player during a challenging season at Old Trafford. The Manchester United player has been a vital cog in a muddled midfield searching for answers in Premier League play.

Cleverley is feeling the heat ahead of Sunday’s clash with Aston Villa at Villa Park, where a loss would see the 11th place Villans pull even with Manchester United on points.

The English international said he’s played a number of mediocre matches in 2013.

“At the moment, I feel like I’ve got more to give,” he said. “I’ve had a few average games, a few more than I would prefer.”

Cleverley admits that manager David Moyes has had him refining his defending, a facet that could be challenging his attacking presence.

“I’m definitely developing the defensive side of my game and tactically the manager is teaching me a lot of things. Maybe the creative side of my game can improve a little bit too but I realise that’s not my only job in the team and sometimes I’ve got to sacrifice that part.

The “average” and worse games are harder to overlook with United’s place in the table combining with ineffective play from many of his midfield mates and an injury to Michael Carrick.

“Any team in the world who had Michael Carrick would feel the loss, there’s no denying that,” he said. “But it has given a chance for other players to play and step up to the plate.”

Now, the team will be without Robin van Persie for at least a month. The names of midfielders linked to Manchester in the transfer market show that the perception of the club’s faults may be linked directly to Cleverley’s unit.

Cleverley had his finest campaign in 2012/13 under Sir Alex Ferguson, scoring six goals in all competitions. Perhaps the Red Devils will be all set once Cleverley and company adjust to the Moyes’ system, but it certainly needs to come soon if Manchester United is to qualify for Europe again.

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