Man Utd V Sunderland at Old Trafford : Match Preview

22 January 2014 03:51
Man Utd V Sunderland - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Cleverley 'getting used to stick'

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 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."

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 campaign can still be turned around.

"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."

Meanwhile, Gus Poyet has warned United that Sunderland are in no mood to do them any favours as they attempt to pile on the misery.

Asked if the game is a must-win affair for United with the odds overwhelmingly in favour of derby rivals Manchester City awaiting the winners in the final, Poyet said: "Yes, it could be, it could be.

"It's a possibility to win a trophy, it's a possibility of winning a trophy by beating their biggest rivals.

"It's an important game for Manchester United, I am sure. They need to make sure that they get in there as well.

"Now, we are not going to go there feeling sorry or whatever, we are going to go there to do our job and play the game, make it difficult for them, make sure we are a difficult team to play against, that we go with the mentality to win and score goals, and then we will see.

"Then the opposition plays and if [Wayne] Rooney is available or if he is not. Like I always say, they are very, very good and they are Manchester United.

"That's no problem, we need to make sure we are good ourselves."

Poyet will have new signings Santiago Vergini and Oscar Ustari among his squad for the first time, with defender Vergini having signed on loan for the rest of the season from Uruguayan club Atletico Fenix and keeper Ustari having signed a short-term deal after his contract at Spanish side Almeria was rescinded by mutual agreement.

He will also have striker Steven Fletcher fit to play after he found himself the subject of unflattering newspaper headlines at the weekend.

Source: PA