Tuesday 20 February 2018

Cleverley 'getting used to stick'

Tom Cleverley and his Manchester United team-mates have endured a tough season
Tom Cleverley and his Manchester United team-mates have endured a tough season

Midfielder Tom Cleverley has admitted he is growing a thick skin to cope with the avalanche of criticism that has come his way this season - and expects Manchester United to strengthen their squad this month.

With United falling well below their usual high standards, Cleverley has been singled out as one of those being responsible, according to some an inadequate presence in an underachieving midfield.

Little wonder the Red Devils have been strongly linked with a move for Chelsea's out-of-favour Spain star Juan Mata, with manager David Moyes also expected to watch Borussia Monchengladbach's Patrick Herrmann on Friday.

Cleverley knows changes are inevitable given the present situation but, speaking ahead of Wednesday's Capital One Cup semi-final with Sunderland at Old Trafford, the England international has adopted a philosophical stance.

"If results are poor and performances are below par you are going to take some stick for it," Cleverley told Sky Sports News.

"It is all part and parcel of being a Manchester United player.

"It takes a bit of getting used to but I am growing a thick skin.

"Since I have been at the club I have always had three or four top midfielders to battle it out for a place with.

"I am sure we will be looking to strengthen the squad like we continuously need to do. That is no different.

"I am just taking it as it comes."

Even such a club loyalist as Gary Neville has reached the conclusion Moyes must bring in some fresh blood this month.

And reports have emerged in Brazil that talks are under way with Bayern Munich defender Dante, whose contract with the Champions League winners is not due to expire until 2016.

Speaking to Fox Sports Radio in his homeland, Dante, who is expected to be part of his country's World Cup squad this summer, was coy about a transfer.

"We have to wait until January 31," he said.

However, it was also claimed Dante confirmed discussions with United representatives were ongoing.

Given the player has also figured at left-back and midfield, two other problem positions, the attraction is obvious, even if Dante was a relative unknown when he arrived at Bayern in 2012 from Borussia Monchengladbach for a bargain £4million.

Moyes is desperate to bring some improvement to a campaign on the brink of total meltdown following Sunday's defeat at Chelsea.

That setback, scarred by such poor defending, has left United six points adrift of the final Champions League slot, with next to no chance of retaining a title they won by 11 points last season.

Failure to overturn Sunderland's first-leg advantage at Old Trafford would be another hammer blow, robbing United of their most realistic chance of silverware.

And there is no guarantee either Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie will be available to help Moyes out, even though both are on the comeback trail following groin and thigh problems respectively.

With skipper Nemanja Vidic definitely out after his red card at Stamford Bridge, it would be no surprise if the atmosphere around the United camp was gloomy.

But Cleverley said there can be no such navel-gazing and he is confident the season can be salvaged.

"We can't let it get our heads down," he said.

"You have to feel for the new manager, he has had no luck at all. But we are not going to feel sorry for ourselves.

"We have to stand up and be counted.

"We are still confident it will come back and we will come out of the other side of this tough period and be stronger for it. There is too much quality in the squad and we work too hard for it not to.

"We have had to rethink our targets for the year but this club is about winning trophies.

"We are still well in the Champions League and are in the semi-final of the cup.

"We have to shoot ourselves up the league, then hopefully we can end the season positively."

Press Association

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