Tom Cleverley has been presented with a brilliant opportunity to prove his qualities to both England and Manchester United, and he must take it in style.
Never before has Cleverley had such a chance to impress, and certainly not at this level. During his early first-team days at United, he was catching attention as an in-form fresh-faced youngster; but at 24, he now has the chance to answer his wide range of doubters on the biggest stage.
England manager Roy Hodgson has confirmed that Cleverley will start for England in their biggest preparation game for the 2014 World Cup: a friendly at Wembley against Germany. As international friendlies go, few create quite as much interest and passion for England than the Germans. Yet Hodgson, is going to give Cleverley the chance to prove his worth in a game of ample pressure, if not importance.
With the eyes of the nation, this is the time to get his fairly average form back on track. He has lacked his creative, sharp style of play in the past year or so, so this is a really good chance to not only build some confidence, but be the player he has the potential to be.
Alongside Steven Gerrard on Tuesday, it is likely that Cleverley will be sitting deep in the midfield. Sadly, I fear that he will struggle to show anything to get too excited about as those in front of him are more likely to be grabbing the limelight.
But, he needs to show there is more to his game than the relentless work rate. He has come under some serious criticism and although some has been harsh, there is little to rave about for Cleverley. Up against some of Europe’s best players in the German side, Cleverley must perform — not only for himself, but for his hopes of being part of the playing side in Brazil 2014.
With United, the place in the midfield for him has been almost gifted. Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini are out with injuries for at least a month by the looks of things, leaving Cleverley with an almost certain chance of getting consistent game time. He will be a player of significant importance for David Moyes up until January at least, and he must help them climb back up the table.
There is not a better time for Cleverley to improve his stock than right now. He must do so starting with Germany on Tuesday evening.