Ferguson delighted to pick brains of 'clever' Cleverley

 

The talk behind the scenes at Old Trafford yesterday was of sustainability. The stadium is the first of its size in Britain to be awarded a prestigious environmental quality mark, though "ISO 14001" – to give it its full title – understandably did not feature in Sir Alex Ferguson's discussion of where his and other English sides now feature in the continental pecking order.

The preponderance of young domestic talent at the manager's disposal suggests that they do possess a far greater sustainability than the two London clubs whose threat to United's hegemony has been fended off. Ferguson insisted yesterday that the Premier League is not "on the slide" because of the calamities which have befallen Arsenal and Chelsea in Italian cities 400 miles apart. "I don't see that [English dominance of the Champions League] subsiding to be honest with you," the United manager said. "It's maybe a disappointing season but not really to my mind definite that we're on the slide." Yet his reasoning – that the London sides had been beset by injuries and "you can't expect them to get the best results without the best teams" – seemed to be an act of diplomacy.

It has not been a vintage United season either, though that is because Ferguson's is a young squad in transition. In the shape of Tom Cleverley, likely to start his first game at Old Trafford since the 8-2 demolition of Arsenal in August against Ajax tonight, he has an important component of his team's sustainability restored to him.

Cleverley made light yesterday of the notion that he may form part of Stuart Pearce's England squad announced today, though Ferguson's paean of praise for the 22-year-old sitting to his right said it all. "He is a very clever footballer. He has got a quick brain in terms of appreciation of passing," Ferguson said. "He gives us more ammunition in midfield which a few months ago everyone was starting to worry about."

Those worries are certainly easing, with the return of Paul Scholes – who might well have preserved United's Champions League status had he been persuaded to forget retirement in the first place – Anderson and a reinvigorated Michael Carrick. The only setback tonight is the absence of Wayne Rooney. A sore throat which was affecting him in United's 2-0 first-leg win in Amsterdam last week has worsened. The aim is to have him fit for the trip to Norwich on Sunday.

 



Of course, the key to a sustainable football team is to bring through the young ones while the veterans are still plying their trade and if Ryan Giggs appears, probably from the bench, for his 900th appearance tonight, he may find himself intersecting with a player – Cleverley – who was one and a half years old when he made his debut. "I can't remember [his debut] exactly," Cleverley said, not unsurprisingly. "But I remember pretending to be him in the back garden."

There are few more compliments Ferguson can offer about Giggs, though yesterday he imparted the view that the man he has told confidantes should be his successor is the best British player of all time. "Playing in the Premier League as long as he has – I don't think another player will do it..."

The manager did not entirely dismiss the notion of Giggs appearing 1,000 times for United, though this did seem to challenge his notion of sustainability a little. "Where did that one come from?" he said. "One hundred games from now... how old would that make him...?" When someone replied "59", the manager grinned. "Stanley Matthews played at 50 didn't he? We'll wait and see, eh?"

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice