Rarely will Sir Alex have been so delighted at the speed of another occasion to throw in his latest set of fledglings as he will be tonight – after they were roundly criticised for not winning against Besiktas despite battering them, the Carling Cup tie against last years finalists Tottenham provides him with a glorious opportunity to test their character.
Whether it’s as a team – they won’t make it – or individually check out this comment from one of those guys at Football365 who plays at being a “journalist” – apparently Gibson is “destined for a transfer to Everton in a couple of years” and this is earmarked as some kind of failure – the same guy says Ferguson should by now have “accepted that Nani, Anderson and even Carrick aren’t upto the job”.
Now, this kind of statement is confusing because I wonder what standards they are being judged on. Is it trophy count? Surely not, as United have undeniably been the most successful side in the country for 3 years.
Is it progression at the side of their opponents? A quick look at the table will tell you that for all the media hyperbole about the likes of Fabregas, Denilson and Walcott, when it comes to cold hard facts all of the evidence would support that their peers at Old Trafford are far advanced.
Is it how far they are at this stage of the season? Perhaps so, but considering that moving into December, United are only second by 5 points to a team that fielded a twice as expensive starting XI, I would hardly call that a damning edict, especially taking into account we have already visited last year’s second and third placed teams.
Are their failings being masked by the brilliance of the older players? Perhaps so, again, but having spent the last few years writing off Giggs and Scholes while saying O’Shea and Fletcher would never amount to anything I’m yet to see a media 180 or any hack holding their hands up and saying “Yeah we got that wrong, Fletcher is probably the best midfielder around this season”. If you didn’t watch the game and relied on the printed word and websites, you would be forgiven for wondering if United win all these trophies IN SPITE of their players!
More likely than any of the above theories however is the probability that this generation of know-nothing-know-it-alls, with no other stick to bash United’s current crop of youngsters with, are simply chastising them because they haven’t yet condemned the likes of Giggs and Scholes to the scrapheap.
Think about that, if you will.
Suffering from criticism NOT because of their achievements, which are better than most of their opponents, but suffering from criticism because the two best players of the generation – two of the top 5 ever seen in the entire history of the sport in England – are still capable of playing better than anyone else. All this is done with a double edged sword, the media dagger of doom, ready to call time on Scholes if he misplaces one pace, ready to say Carrick or Gibson can’t replace him if they misplace two.
Because of this it welcomes all manner of moronic debate, Spearing of Liverpool is worthy of comparison to Gibson, Gibbs of Arsenal compares to Fabio and the most laughable thing I’ve read from an Arsenal perspective, that Denilson is comparable to Anderson. This isn’t a new craze, who can forget the “Reyes is better than Ronaldo” debate that raged on?
In his first two seasons, regardless of anyone’s opinion, Anderson has played more than just a worthwhile contribution in a team that has collected two Premier League trophies, a Champions League, a World Club Cup and a Carling Cup.
The much maligned Nani suffers in comparison to his all conquering compatriot predecessor at United but at the side of someone like Theo Walcott then our back flipping winger suddenly begins to look, well, not quite so bad, with consistency that surely makes the likes of Albert Riera blush.
In Welbeck we have a natural finisher that embarrassingly outweighs that instinct of a Vela, a Bendtner or a Ngog, a local lad to boot, yet predictably the other three get raved about (Scouse logic now has it that Ngog is better than Owen) while Fergie’s talk of Welbeck being a World Cup outsider is scoffed at by the same national media that hung on Wenger’s every word about a player he didn’t even trust to make his own bench in 2006, and has not developed since.
All this talk of how ineffectual Carrick and Anderson are is remarkably short sighted considering that just a few weeks ago Chelsea’s seemingly imperious midfield were anonymous against them. Is Carrick’s biggest crime that he came up short against, currently, the best two midfielders in the world in the Champions League Final?
Likewise, is Gibson’s “destined failure” down to coming up short in dictating a game on his FIRST Champions League start? What passes for dictating these days anyway? I ask this because United can win against Arsenal and still Arsenal come out as the team with more credit yet against the Turkish Champions, well, United may not have been sparkling but had over 25 shots at the Besiktas goal and found Rustu Recber is sparkling form. This is a side that for the bulk of the game had two teenagers up front and a winger not only new to the side but still recovering from injury.
It is far from the end of the road, to the contrary, it could prove to be the making of these players. On another day the Besiktas game could have easily finished 5-1 to United.
The Barcelona mauling in 1994 didn’t define the career of the likes of Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes who were given a true rude awakening, likewise, the Carling Cup win in 2004 over Arsenal didn’t signal the start of a long career in the United midfield for Liam Miller and Djemba Djemba.
The Spurs game tonight won’t be the defining step in these players’ careers either (and it should be noted that the Spurs side United will face will be far superior to that Besiktas one) but what it should do is give us an indication of their character if, of course, Fergie selects them.
Regardless of that I’m with Fergie in that there’s enough there to show promise and at the very least what we saw against Besiktas is that the majority of the kids coming through have the spirit to chase a game until the final kick. I’m not blindly placing faith in them – in my book, any Manchester United side put out in European Competition should be able to beat, with all due respect, a Turkish team, but if they don’t, I don’t think that is endemic of the current crop of youngsters.
The fact of the matter is they have to live with the fact that the result was embarrassing for them because of the club they were representing and that in itself is a true test of character. But I implore any true Red reading this to not buy into the media whirlwind and start thinking things are worse than they are. If at the end of the season they’ve had ample chance and failed to impress then let’s throw the subject open for discussion.
When they are currently doing all that is asked of them and suffer one setback, let’s not automatically buy into the deluded fools who are trying to use the fact that they’re not Scholes or Giggs YET (and who is?) that they are not as good as our opponents, when the facts tell a different story.
Of course no-one knows how things will pan out. Maybe Denilson will surpass Gibson. Maybe our youngsters will end up with nothing. But we don’t know – I’m taking the optimistic (and historically favoured) route. And, win or lose (tonight or ultimately), if they are trying to play the United way, what more could we as fans ask for?