Tom Cleverley relieved after notching goal for Manchester United

 

Tom Cleverley has admitted his lack of goals for Manchester United was starting to get to him.

The 23-year-old managed to find the net during loan spells with Leicester, Watford and Wigan.

For Manchester United, though, he was just drawing a blank.

Even Sir Alex Ferguson felt compelled to give Cleverley a half-time dressing down at Old Trafford last night after the midfielder had somehow failed to convert a golden chance set up for him by Javier Hernandez.

The England man clearly took the hint.

Receiving Danny Welbeck's square ball on the edge of the area, Cleverley stroked a shot into the corner, which doubled United's lead in their Capital One Cup encounter with Newcastle, and allowed them to repel a late Magpies rally to secure a 2-1 win.

"It has been playing on my mind a little bit," said Cleverley.

"I have always scored goals when I have gone on loan, so it was bugging me that I had not been doing it for my club or my country.

"The gaffer gave me a bit at half-time for missing the one in the first-half, so it was nice to stroke that one in.

"We practice those sorts of finishes a lot so when the ball came to me I knew what I was going to do.

"I have got the first one out of the way now. Hopefully they will all come at once."

It was a well-timed goal too as England coach Gary Neville was in the stand, with Roy Hodgson a week away from announcing his England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland.

Wayne Rooney's return at Old Trafford means Cleverley has a major rival for the role he filled to such great effect in Moldova earlier this month, only to attract heaps of criticism for wasting more scoring opportunities against Ukraine at Wembley four days later.

Not that Cleverley regrets Rooney's recovery from a gashed thigh. Far from it.

Along with Darren Fletcher's first start in 10 months, he regards Rooney's involvement as one of the major bonuses to emerge from last night's game.

"It is fantastic to have them both back," he said.

"Darren Fletcher is a big game player and would bring positive things to any squad in the world. I am happy for him.

"Wayne came back and put in a good performance too, so we are getting stronger."

And for all the plaudits he received following after taking the latest significant step in an ongoing battle to overcome a chronic bowel condition, it seemed Fletcher was happier discussing Rooney's contribution too.

"It is the first time I have captained Manchester United," said Fletcher.

"It is something I dreamed about. But all these things, coming back, being captain are nice but the biggest thing was to win the match.

"But I thought Wayne was excellent floating behind the strikers.

"He was getting on the ball, pinging passes and using his experience.

"He is a fantastic player with great imagination."

Despite a hugely inexperienced defence, that boasted just two senior appearances between them prior to kick-off, United held Newcastle at bay in the frantic later stages.

Michael Keane and Marnick Vermijl both caught the eye, allowing Sir Alex Ferguson to keep Jonny Evans on the bench rather than risk injury to one of only two fit senior centre-halves at the club.

Reports of Antonio Valencia being set for another period on the sidelines remain unconfirmed.

However, it is clear Ferguson is more concerned about his defence, with just Evans and Rio Ferdinand fit after Nemanja Vidic was forced to undergo knee surgery that will keep him out for a couple of months.

"Everyone knows the situation with our defenders," said Ferguson, whose side entertain Tottenham on Saturday.

"We are having a hard time with that.

"Nemanja Vidic being out is a blow to us and we simply cannot take a risk with defenders.

"We just hope if we can get through the next two league games it will give us a little breather and we can start to get one or two of them back."

PA

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