TOM Cleverley admits it was with a heavy heart that he said his goodbyes to Wigan Athletic and returned to Manchester United.
The England Under-21 international spent a hugely-successful campaign at the DW, bagging four goals in 25 games for Latics.
After battling a couple of injury niggles in the first half of the campaign, Cleverley came on strong after Christmas and was instrumental in Latics avoiding the drop.
And despite him not being a full-time member of the squad, the 21-year-old insists Wigan retaining their top-flight status meant as much to him as any player at the club.
“People think loan players just turn up for a year and then go back to their parent clubs, but I don’t think there were two happier people in that dressing room at Stoke than myself and Ali Al Habsi,” Cleverley told the Evening Post.
“I’ll be back at United next year, but Wigan will be the first result I’ll look for and the club will always be close to my heart.
“I loved every minute of being there – the lads, the manager, the staff, the fans – everyone was great with me.
“I spent some happy times on loan at Leicester and Watford earlier in my career, and my year with Wigan definitely falls into that category.”
Cleverley returns to Old Trafford having been tipped as a future England international by Roberto Martinez.
He knows he faces a tough task to establish himself in the United side but, having seen Antonio Valencia do exactly that in the last two years, the midfielder knows he will be given the opportunity.
“It was a stop-start beginning to my year here, but I managed to put a good run together after Christmas and I think I ended up with around 25 games in all,” he added.
“If someone had offered me that at the start of the season I’d have snapped their hand off.
“My form in the last four or five weeks was a little bit average, which was disappointing for me.
“But we achieved what we wanted to as a team and that means everything to me.
“And now I go back to United looking to build on what I’ve done here and hopefully make my mark at Old Trafford.”
Unlike most of his Latics colleagues, Cleverley was not able to let his hair down after a gruelling end to the season because of the forthcoming European Under-21 Championships to be played in Denmark.
But he admits he couldn’t be going on any more of a high.
“I was buzzing, so were the rest of the lads and the staff – last Sunday was a great day,” he reflected.
“All we could do was win the game, and we did just that.
“At the end, we weren’t quite sure if we’d done it, but when the news came through it was the best moment of my career – absolutely the best.”