In an interview with the official Manchester United website, Tom Cleverley has stated his and his teammates’ intentions to vindicate themselves after last year’s dismal season beginning with this Saturday’s lunchtime game against Swansea City.
“We can’t wait to get going against Swansea and look to put right the wrongs from last year.”
United begins this season as it did last, with a fixture against Swansea City, except for this match being played at Old Trafford. Last season, United began strongly, brushing Swansea aside 4-1 with braces from Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck. Cleverley went on to say:
“This club has always been renowned for bouncing back from sticky patches and that’s one of the reasons it’s so loved around the world.”
As if United fans need any reminder, the team finished seventh last term; its lowest position since 1990. Most United fans expect a top-four finish this term with some predicting them to retake the title come May.
“We started against Swansea last year but away; this time it’s at home, and I’m sure the fans will be the same as us: raring to go. It’ll be the manager’s first competitive game and I’m sure it will be a special atmosphere.”
Unlike years before last, when Old Trafford was a fortress in which many opposing teams more or less lost before the starting whistle, the opposition came to Old Trafford last season excited, knowing that they could get a result. Consider this statistic, after the first ten matches last season, United had only won forty percent of its home matches and taken fourteen out of a maximum of 30 points on home soil, according to BBC Sport. Manchester City, by comparison, had managed a perfect 100% start to the season at home at that stage last season. To challenge for the title, United will need to have a strong home record. To do that, they’ll need to build Old Trafford’s fear factor back up, brick-by-brick, match-by-match.
That starts this weekend against Swansea, and Cleverley thinks van Gaal’s tactics have prepared the team well. Talking about van Gaal’s system, he said:
“It’s very much pass and move, always asking for the ball, which is my game. And the manager is so clear that there can be no questions asked from our point of view. We know exactly what he wants and are confident that if we do what he wants on the pitch, we’ll win.”
It’s unclear whether Cleverley will play any role in the match on Saturday. He featured in a number of preseason matches during the tour of America, even captaining the side for the full 90 minutes against Roma. Van Gaal has confidence in Cleverley but it seems Herrera and Fletcher have staked their positions as starters in the centre of midfield. Depending on who the game calls for, van Gaal may select Cleverley off the bench to kill the game off and keep possession of the ball with his accurate passing.
Regardless of whether Cleverley plays or not, United will need a strong performance on Saturday, one that sends a message to the rest of the league declaring that Old Trafford is a place to fear again.
This article was written by Kush Govani, who is part of our Academy writing team. Please make your comment on this article if you agree or disagree with the comments raised in this article.