Rio downplays Cleverley/Scholes comparisons

Rio Ferdinand has warned that hailing Tom Cleverley as the new Paul Scholes could be counter-productive to the Manchester United youngster’s development as a player.

After impressing during his loan-spell at Wigan Athletic last season, it appears that manager Sir Alex Ferguson will put his faith in the midfielder as he looks to fill the void left by Scholes, following his retirement at the end of last season.

Ferguson remarked that replacing Scholes – often described as the finest English midfielder of his generation – would be the hardest thing he would have to do.

After seemingly giving up on replacing the talismanic midfielder by bringing in a player from outside the club, Cleverley looks set to be given the opportunity to make the position his own.

While Ferdinand agrees that the two share similar qualities, he stressed the fact that the Basingstoke-born midfielder should be allowed to be himself.

"If he gets near to Paul Scholes he will have done well," said Ferdinand. "Tom will be his own player. I am sure he would rather be that than titled the new this or that.

"He has some great traits. He sees the game clearly and plays the ball forward in a nice way. It is a huge pressure to be tagged the next Paul Scholes."

After arriving at Old Trafford from the Bradford City youth setup, there was a worry that Cleverley’s slight frame would not hold up to the rigours of top-flight football.

However, after loan spells at Watford and his impressive development under Roberto Martinez at the DW Stadium last season, he proved that he was more than capable of holding his own after an accomplished display in United’s 3-2 Community Shield victory over rivals Manchester City.

This in-turn earned him a call up to the Fabio Capello’s England squad for the subsequently postponed international friendly with Holland at Wembley.

"Everybody knew he had the talent," said Ferdinand. "It was about realising it and pushing on. All the things people were worrying about, with regard to his height and sizes have been knocked on the head now. He is showing people his true worth.

"He was very slight but he has worked hard. He has matured and grown. He has gone out on loan, done his apprenticeship and come back a fantastic young player.

“Sunday was one game, but he did it on loan at Wigan last year. I heard Roberto Martinez speak many times about how good he is. He brings that to Manchester United and I am sure he will have a fantastic career.”

By Vithushan Ehantharajah