EXCLUSIVE: United reward Cleverley for breakthrough with new deal until 2015
Tom Cleverley has been rewarded for his remarkable progress at Manchester United with a contract that ties him to Old Trafford until the summer of 2015.
The 22-year-old midfielder has signed a deal that puts him in a similar pay bracket to United's other England internationals Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, who agreed a £40,000-a-week package when he moved from Blackburn in the summer.
United's determination to secure Cleverley on improved terms illustrates the impact he has made since returning from an impressive season-long loan at Wigan.
His emergence has helped compensate for the retirement of Paul Scholes as well as softening the blow of United's failure to sign Wesley Sneijder from Inter Milan.
It has also caught the attention of Fabio Capello who handed the England Under 21 star his first senior call-up for the cancelled friendly against Holland in August, and the subsequent Euro 2012 qualifiers with Bulgaria and Wales.
Having already made a big impression in United's win over Barcelona on the pre-season tour of America, Cleverley pressed his claim for a first-team place when he came on as a half-time substitute in the Community Shield in August to help Sir Alex Ferguson's side recover from two goals down and beat neighbours Manchester City 3-2 at Wembley.
It earned him a place in the line-up ahead of Michael Carrick for United's first four Barclays Premier League games as the champions made a 100 per cent start to the season, but he then damaged ligaments in his foot in a challenge with Kevin Davies at Bolton a month ago and has been sidelined since.
It has not gone unnoticed at Old Trafford how much United have missed Cleverley's energy and quick distribution during his absence, with United struggling to beat Norwich and drawing with Benfica, Stoke and Basle.
It looks unlikely that he will recover in time for the trip to Liverpool on Saturday, but he should be fit to face City again in the Manchester derby the following weekend.
Cleverley's new deal is also reward for his determination to convince Ferguson he would make it as a first-team player despite concerns among the coaching staff at United's youth academy that he was too small as a teenager.
That was reflected in his decision to go out on loan and gain experience in the Championship with Watford and Leicester rather than sit in United's reserves.
'I was never knocked back but I'd say I was doubted,' Cleverley told Sportsmail in April. 'I've never had it easy in my career. Compared to everyone else in the team I was really small. It was hard for me but I always had the confidence that one day I'd be good enough.
'It was strange to keep going out on loan. I've had four clubs and hopefully this time next year it's still four clubs and I'm playing for United.
'I'd rather the manager didn't buy players because he trusts the youth he's got. Hopefully we can prove him right.'
After handing Cleverley a new deal, United are now expected to focus their efforts on tying England striker Danny Welbeck to a long-term contract.