Thomas William Cleverley (born 12 August 1989) is an English professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Premier League club Watford.
After starting his career in the youth set-up at Bradford City, Cleverley joined Manchester United at the age of 12. Between 2007 and 2009 he played for Manchester United's reserve team, and occasionally in first-team friendly matches. Cleverley was loaned to League One club Leicester City at the start of 2009, for whom he made his first Football League appearances, helping the team secure the League One title and promotion to the Championship. He spent the 2009–10 season on loan with Watford in the Championship, where he scored 11 goals in 33 league matches and was voted as their Player of the Season. On 31 August 2010, he joined Wigan Athletic on a season-long loan, where he scored four goals in 25 appearances and helped them to avoid relegation on the final day of the season. He returned to Manchester United for the start of the 2011–12 season and made his first competitive appearance in the FA Community Shield victory against Manchester City. He won the Premier League with Manchester United in 2013.
Cleverley played for Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Olympics, and later that year made his debut for the England national team.
Cleverley was born in Basingstoke, Hampshire, but grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire. He went to Hanson school. He was part of Bradford City's youth set up and the next summer he joined Manchester United as an 11-year-old trainee in July 2000.
During the 2005–06 season, he made nine appearances for the under-18 team. He also received a taste of reserve team football when he was named on the bench for the team's 4–1 away win over Everton on 21 February 2006. His first appearance for the reserves came in a 0–0 away draw to Bolton Wanderers almost a year later, on 15 February 2007, by which time he had become a regular in the under-18 team. However, just over a month later, he suffered a long-term injury and was ruled out for seven months.
He returned to action in October 2007, playing for the reserves in a 1–1 home draw with Liverpool. The 2007–08 season marked Cleverley's emergence as a regular in the Manchester United reserve team, making 21 appearances as the team went on to win both the Manchester Senior Cup and the Lancashire Senior Cup, in which he scored in the final against Liverpool. He also scored his first goals in a Manchester United shirt on 23 January 2008, when he scored both of United's goals in a 2–0 away win over Bolton Wanderers in the Premier Reserve League. His consistent performances for the reserves earned him the captaincy of the team in the absence of regular captain Sam Hewson, as well as a nomination for the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award – he lost out to Richard Eckersley.
In recognition of his performances for the reserves, on 24 July 2008, Cleverley was called up to the Manchester United first team for the remainder of their tour of South Africa and the match against Portsmouth in Nigeria. He made his first-team debut against Kaizer Chiefs in the final of the 2008 Vodacom Challenge, coming on in place of Rodrigo Possebon at half-time, before he scored the third of United's four goals just after the hour mark.
He returned to regular reserve team duty for the 2008–09 season, but was given a first-team squad number – 35 – when the first-team squad list was announced on 15 August 2008, and was named on the bench for United's League Cup matches against Middlesbrough and Queens Park Rangers.
On 16 January 2009, Cleverley joined Leicester City on loan for the remainder of the 2008–09 season and was given the number 7 shirt.
He made his debut on 19 January 2009 in a 2–0 away win over Yeovil Town, coming on as an 85th-minute substitute for Matty Fryatt. Cleverley scored his first Leicester City goal few weeks later on 3 February 2009, in a 4–1 win over Walsall. Cleverley then scored his second goal for the club on 7 March 2009, in a 4–0 win over Cheltenham Town. After two goals in 15 matches for Leicester, Cleverley's loan spell came to a premature end after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Colchester United. He then returned to Manchester United for treatment and underwent surgery on his shoulder on 2 April 2009. Although his loan had ended, Cleverley was presented with a medal on 24 April after Leicester secured their promotion as champions of League One.
Towards the end of the season, along with James Chester and Corry Evans, Cleverley was nominated by Manchester United reserve team manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær for the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award.
After being featured and scored in the pre–season friendly match against Valencia, Cleverley was told by Alex Ferguson that he would be loaned out to gain further first-team experience. On 18 August 2009, Cleverley signed for Watford on loan, and was able to play in their match away to Nottingham Forest that evening.
He started the match and was booked within four minutes of the start of the second half, but then sealed a 4–2 win with a goal in the second minute of injury time at the end of the match. He then scored another goal on his home debut four days later, scoring Watford's second goal in a 2–2 draw with Blackpool, and became Watford's joint-top scorer with the second goal in a 2–0 win over Preston North End in November. Shortly afterwards, he extended his loan deal at Watford until the end of the 2009–10 season.
Cleverley scored a further five goals in 20 appearances for Watford before a knee ligament injury in April 2010 ended his season prematurely. He went on to win the team's Player of the Season award.
On 1 July 2010, Cleverley signed a new contract with the club, keeping him until 2013. Cleverley returned to Manchester United for the beginning of the 2010–11 season, and travelled with the squad for their pre-season tour of North America in July 2010. He came on as a substitute for Ryan Giggs at half-time in the first match of the tour against Celtic in Toronto, and scored United's third in a 3–1 win. He then netted his second of the tour on 28 July 2010, scoring United's fourth in their 5–2 win in the 2010 MLS All-Star Game; he controlled Darren Fletcher's flick into the box before lifting the ball over Wilman Conde's head and side-footing it past Nick Rimando.
On 31 August 2010, although Cleverley looked destined to stay with United for the season, Wigan Athletic confirmed they had agreed a season-long loan deal for Cleverley, with Manchester United retaining the option to recall the player from his loan spell in January.
On 11 September 2010, Cleverley made his debut for Wigan which was also his Premier League debut, replacing Mauro Boselli in the 75th minute and assisting Antolin Alcaraz in a 1–1 home draw against Sunderland. However, Cleverley suffered a knock, resulting a knee injury in training and was sidelined for weeks. Cleverley then made his first-team return on 16 October 2010, coming on as a substitute for Ronnie Stam in the 79th minutes, in a 2–2 draw against Newcastle United. On 27 November, he scored his first goal for the club, also his first ever Premier League goal, in a 3–1 defeat away to West Ham United. Seven days later he scored his second for Wigan and first home goal in a 2–2 draw against Stoke City. However, following a Dubious Goals Panel ruling, this goal was taken away from Cleverley and credited as a Rory Delap own goal.
On 31 January 2011, Manchester United agreed to let Cleverley stay on loan at Wigan until the end of the season. Cleverley scored the decisive goal in a 2–1 away win over Wolverhampton Wanderers which lifted Wigan out of the relegation zone. However, Cleverley suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out for a month. Cleverley then made his return from the first team on 5 February 2011, where he came on as a substitute for Victor Moses in the 67th minutes, in a 4–3 win over Blackburn Rovers. After making return to the first team, Cleverley then scored and set up one of the goal, which turned out to be a winning goal, in a 2–1 win over Birmingham City on 19 March 2011.
Cleverley was one of Wigan's stand-out performers, and ended the season with three goals and two assists in 25 Premier League appearances.
Return to Manchester United
Paul Scholes' retirement before the 2011–12 season left an opening in Manchester United's central midfield. Cleverley was identified by manager Alex Ferguson as a potential homegrown replacement for Scholes.
Cleverley was praised by Ferguson after playing the full 90 minutes in a 2–1 victory over Barcelona in a pre-season friendly match. Ferguson said that Cleverley was United's "best player" against Barcelona and he indicated that there is a strong possibility that he could be among the starting 11 in the opening fixture of the 2011–12 Premier League season against West Bromwich Albion. Cleverley made his competitive debut for United in the 3–2 comeback win over derby rivals Manchester City in the 2011 FA Community Shield. He came on as a second-half substitute for Michael Carrick after United went 2–0 down at half time, and assisted Nani's equaliser, after a pass and move build up.
He started his first Premier League match for Manchester United on 14 August 2011, playing the full 90 minutes away to West Bromwich Albion in the first match of the 2011–12 season. After impressing in his opening match, Cleverley started Manchester United's second match of the campaign against Tottenham Hotspur on 22 August, getting an assist in the process. He played the full match against Arsenal on 28 August 2011, which Manchester United won 8–2. Cleverley sustained a ligament damage in his foot after being tackled heavily by Bolton's Kevin Davies in the 3rd minute of United's next match, a 5–0 away victory at Bolton Wanderers. It was later confirmed by the club that he would be sidelined for a month with the injury.
The following month in October 2011, Cleverley signed a new contract keeping him at the club until 2015. On 25 October 2011, Cleverley made his return from injury in the League Cup, a 3–0 win against Aldershot Town. He made another appearance 4 days later, away to Everton, where he played for 56 minutes and they went on to win 1–0. Cleverley played in a more advanced midfield role, linking defence with attack and was arguably Manchester United's best player. He left the field of play after 57 minutes due to an ankle injury, but his performance was later hailed by his manager, Alex Ferguson, as "outstanding". Although his injury was initially less serious that kept him sidelined for weeks, Cleverley's injury was sidelined even further until Christmas.
On 20 January 2012, Ferguson stated "I am hopeful in 10 days' time he will be training then we can kick on." Cleverley was due to return for the match at Old Trafford against Liverpool on 11 February 2012, but he was an unused substitute. He eventually returned in a UEFA Europa League 2–0 away win against Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena. However, since his return, Cleverley appeared in the first team occasionally towards the end of the season and made seventeen appearance in all competitions. Despite this, Cleverley said the season, quoting: "I've had some bad luck and now I have just got to get on with it. From a great start it became the hardest season of my life. But it has made me mentally stronger."
In the 2012–13 season, Cleverley managed to regain his first-team place at the club at the start of the season following his performance in the Olympics 2012. On 26 September 2012, he scored his first goal, in a 2–1 win against Newcastle United in the League Cup. His first league goal was on 7 October 2012, also against Newcastle United.
He scored his second league goal on 15 December with a fine first-time finish from the edge of the area in a 3–1 win against Sunderland. On 5 January 2013, Cleverley scored a goal from a Javier Hernández cross in a 2–2 draw against West Ham United in a third Round FA Cup tie. However, he struggled to regain his first-team place, and spent most of the season on the substitutes bench despite making 22 appearances, which was enough to earn him a Premier League winner's medal.
In the 2013–14 season, under the new management of David Moyes, Cleverley found himself competing in a midfielder spot with newly signing Marouane Fellaini and also began playing in a deep position. On 15 December 2013, Cleverley scored in a 3–0 victory over Aston Villa. Due to Manchester United's underperformance this season, Cleverley came under heavy criticism by Manchester United supporters and a petition was even created to ban Cleverley from being included for the England squad in 2014 FIFA World Cup. The petition was criticised by manager Moyes and Roy Hodgson. The criticism on Cleverley further increased when he was offered a new contract. Cleverley later ended the 2014–15 season, making 32 appearances and scoring once in all competitions.
With the signings of Ander Herrera, Ángel Di María, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw and Radamel Falcao for the 2014–15 season, Cleverley found himself on the fringes of the Manchester United squad under new manager Louis van Gaal, who had taken over from David Moyes over the summer. As such, he attracted interest from a number of clubs, including Aston Villa and Everton. Aston Villa made an initial bid of £8 million for Cleverley, but baulked at his wage demands. Everton then came in with an offer of £5 million that was rejected, before Villa revived their interest with a loan bid on 1 September 2014. However, both of these never materialised and Cleverley was expected to stay at Manchester United.
Aston Villa (loan)
The transfer was completed at around 01:15 in the morning of 2 September, shortly after the expiry of a two-hour extension to the transfer deadline granted by the Premier League, but the transfer was eventually ratified later that afternoon after Aston Villa argued that they had completed the relevant paperwork before the deadline. Following his loan move with just a year left on his United contract, Cleverley admitted that his career at Old Trafford was over.
Cleverley made his Aston Villa debut on 13 September 2014 in a 1–0 win over Liverpool. His manager Paul Lambert denied rumours that there was a clause in Cleverly's contract that he must start him when fit, and defended the player after he was cheered sarcastically by some Aston Villa supporters when substituted in matches. At one point, Cleverley's performance resulted a confrontation with then the club's assistant manager, Roy Keane. Cleverley lost his first-team place following a new management of Tim Sherwood, but managed to redeem himself soon after.
On 25 April 2015, he scored his first goal for the club in a 3–2 defeat to Manchester City. He scored again in the following match, a 3–2 win at home to Everton. He scored for the third match in a row for the first time in a 1–0 win at home to West Ham United. His performance helped the club avoid relegation and retained their Premier League status for another season. Cleverley played all six matches in Aston Villa's FA Cup campaign and started in the 2015 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, where the team were defeated 4–0 by Arsenal on 30 May 2015.
With his contract expiring at the end of the 2014–15 season, Cleverley was expected to be among Manchester United players to leave the club for good., it was later confirmed that Cleverley was released by the club, along with four other players.
Following the expiration of his contract with Manchester United, Cleverley joined Everton on 1 July 2015, signing a five-year contract. Cleverley previously was on the verge of joining Aston Villa on a permanent basis, but was in favour of joining Everton at the end of the season.
Cleverley made his Everton debut in the opening match of the season, where he played in the left–midfielder position and played 90 minutes, in a 2–2 draw against Watford. However, during a match against Tottenham Hotspur, Cleverley suffered a malleolar injury and was sidelined between six and eight weeks. After two months without playing, Cleverley finally made his return to the first team against James McCarthy in the 68th minutes, in a 3–3 draw against Bournemouth on 28 November 2015. Cleverley scored his first goal for the club on 26 December 2015, when he headed in a last-minute winner for the Toffees against Newcastle United. Between 3 February 2016 and 6 February 2016, Cleverley provided three assists against Newcastle United (once) and Stoke City, which both of these matches were a 3–0 win. Cleverley then scored and set up one of the goal, in a 2–1 win over Bournemouth on 20 April 2016. In his first season at Everton, Cleverley finished the season, making 22 appearances and scoring three times.
In his second season, however, Cleverley found himself behind a pecking order in the first team under the new management of Ronald Koeman. As a result, Cleverley found his first team hard to come by, due to "looks ill-suited to a team demanding strength, nous and 90-minute energy" as expected by Koeman and would appear on the substitute bench. Having have his first team limited to making five starts in twelve appearances without scoring, it was expected that Cleverley would leave the club in January
Return to Watford
On 12 January 2017, Cleverley joined Premier League club Watford on loan until the end of the 2016–17 season, with a view to a permanent transfer, after failing to establish himself at Everton. He re-debut for the club two days later, coming on as a second-half substitute, in a 0–0 draw against Middlesbrough. He then played a vital role in the next two matches against Bournemouth and Arsenal. Having quickly made an impact for the side, it was announced on 31 March 2017 that Cleverley would join Watford permanently on 1 July on a five-year contract for an undisclosed fee. At the end of the 2016–17 season, Cleverley went on to make 17 appearances for the side.
In the 2017–18 season, Cleverley continued to feature in the first team regularly following the managerial appointment of Marco Silva and was expected to face competition for a place in the side. It was not until on 15 October 2017 when he scored his first goal for Watford (his first for the side in seven years), in a 2–1 win over Arsenal.
Cleverley was called up to Noel Blake's England under-20 team for the first time on 12 March 2009. However, following a dislocated shoulder suffered while on loan at Leicester City a few days later, he was forced to withdraw from the squad, and was replaced by Leeds United midfielder Adam Clayton. Cleverley eventually made his Under-20 debut on 11 August 2009 in a 5–0 friendly win over Montenegro at The Hawthorns, missing an early penalty but going on to score two second-half goals.
Cleverley made his England U-21 debut as substitute for Junior Stanislas in a 2–1 win away to Macedonia on 4 September 2009.
Great Britain Olympic team
On 2 July 2012, Cleverley was named in Stuart Pearce's 18-man Great Britain squad for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
On 20 July 2012, Cleverley played in a warm up match for the Olympics at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough against Brazil national under-23 football team. The match finished 2–0 to Brazil, with Cleverley playing the full match. He played the full match in the tournament's opening fixture against Senegal; which ended 1–1. In the second group match against the United Arab Emirates, Cleverley was instrumental in GB's victory. He set up the winner with a through-ball for Daniel Sturridge and generally impressed with his range of passing.
England senior team
In August 2011, he was called up to the England senior team by Fabio Capello for a friendly against the Netherlands. but did not end up playing as the match was cancelled on 8 August by The Football Association after the riots in London. He received another call-up for the Euro 2012 qualifying matches with Bulgaria and Wales later in September 2011 alongside fellow new England additions and club-mates Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, but did not end up playing.
He made his debut a year later in a 2–1 win against Italy on 15 August 2012. He made his competitive debut on 7 September 2012, playing the full 90 minutes in a 5–0 win away to Moldova during 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying and received praise for his performance from manager Roy Hodgson. On 12 October 2012, playing against San Marino in a World Cup qualifier, Cleverley made 165 touches during the match, the highest ever recorded for an England player. He also made two assists in the same match as England won 5–0. His 13th and last cap to date came in November 2013 against Germany.
Growing up, Cleverley suffered from a childhood speech impediment and was given a nickname, "Chunks". In October 2011, Cleverley accepted substantial undisclosed libel damages over a false claim made by The Sun newspaper the previous August that he had "badgered" a girl for sex in Blackpool. Cleverley was at home with his girlfriend in Manchester when the newspaper said the incident had occurred.
In May 2012, Cleverley began dating ex-TOWIE star, Georgina Dorsett after they first met through a mutual friend. Dorsett announced her pregnancy in December 2012 and gave birth to their child, a daughter, Nevaeh Rose, on 7 June 2013. The couple announced their engagement in July 2014 and were married the following year. Cleverley and Dorsett had a second child when she gave birth to a boy, Alfie, on 3 May 2016.
In October 2015, Cleverley was present in his house, with his wife and then baby daughter, when he was burgled by armed thieves and watches, designer handbags, jewellery and two Range Rovers were stolen.
- As of end of 2017–18 season
|Club||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Other||Total|
|Manchester United||2008–09||Premier League||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Leicester City (loan)||2008–09||League One||15||2||—||—||—||15||2|
|Wigan Athletic (loan)||2010–11||Premier League||25||4||—||—||—||25||4|
|Aston Villa (loan)||2014–15||Premier League||31||3||6||0||—||—||37||3|
|Watford (loan)||2016–17||Premier League||17||0||0||0||—||—||17||0|
- As of match played 19 November 2013
- Football League One: 2008–09
- Premier League: 2012–13
- FA Community Shield: 2011, 2013
- Watford Player of the Season: 2009–10