Manchester United must turn to youth

da Silvas

Since the days of Sir Matt Busby, Manchester United’s club ethos has been to give kids a chance. The saying synonymous with football managers, ‘if they’re good enough, they’re old enough’ is so very prevalent with our club. At present the United squad is awash with talented young players. The biggest problem with young players is how to integrate them into the first team, yet we are fortunate enough that our young players are slowly starting to form the core to the club. What’s more, they are all winners.

For many United fans this is a summer of discontent. The hope and expectation of signings comes round every year. Quite often the club doesn’t disappoint with one new, familiar face arriving. This summer feels somewhat different though. The rumour-mill as ever has churned out lots of players linked to the club (totalling £1.578billion) but the reality of a signing seems to be but a distant dream. I should point out that Smalling and Hernandez whilst being new signings do not feel to me like summer signings as their deals were concluded a while ago.

As fans with high expectations it’s quite correct that we should lament the lack of signings. Every year the squad should be strengthened and improved to make sure that it remains ahead of the nearest rivals. A new signing provides us fans with something to be excited about and it provides the players with a fresh challenge, competition. If we don’t make new signings will we fall behind the competition?

I don’t believe so. At Manchester United, preparing for the future is always important. Time invested in youngsters is wasted if they don’t get a chance to prove themselves. We are so lucky that Sir Alex Ferguson is in charge managing and monitoring the progress of the young players. In modern football, rarely has there been a better judge of the ability of a youth player. A line from the commentary in the 95/96 cup final always sticks out: “he made room for the youngsters” – so much is his belief in youth that when given the option of signing a player or giving a youngster a chance (providing he’s good enough), he opts for youth.

The hardest thing for a manager to do is to introduce youth into a winning side. Young players can be naive but also hungry for success. When Ferguson feels a young player is good enough we see him giving the player some exposure in the Carling Cup side. The beauty of this is that the Carling Cup is taken seriously enough so that the good youngsters are played alongside experienced players and as we’ve seen in the past couple of years, have been good enough to go on and win the competition. That winning experience cannot be replicated, and it means for the da Silva twins, J. Evans, Gibson, Welbeck, Macheda etc. that they grow up faster than at any other club. They learn what the club is about and how to win.

The obvious comparison with Ferguson’s record is with Arsene Wenger. I think all Man United fans respect Wenger and the success he’s had over a good period of time. Wenger is always praised for having a young team, but this current crop have won nothing. Not that I would like Arsenal to start winning, but if Wenger took the Carling Cup more seriously, then his players may start to understand what winning is about, and they’d catch the ‘bug’. Therein lays the extraordinary feat that Ferguson continues to achieve – winning and producing youth.

I believe that this year will prove to be an important breakthrough year for some of the youngsters at the club. We’re likely to see Rafael as first choice right back; Evans may end up playing as first choice for a lot of the season again whilst Smalling will get good opportunities; Gibson appears to be heavily backed by the coaches; I’ve made my case for Anderson; Macheda and Obertan will both feature more; Nani hopefully will continue from where he left off…I could do this for every youngster but the important thing is that these players must now be backed as more than squad players and must kick on to be a firm part of the first team. There are new young players ready to take on the mantle of squad and Carling Cup players – the likes of Corry Evans, Tom Cleverley, Joshua King, William Keane, Magnus Eikrem, Ben Amos etc.

Now more so than ever before these young players should be given a chance. Our beloved geniuses Giggs, Scholes, Neville and Van der Sar will all be retiring soon, while Brown, Berbatov, Carrick, O’Shea, and Ferdinand are not far behind with age. How fitting would it be if those players, some of whom have been with the club since their early teenage years, were replaced from within, by another player who has come up through the ranks. Furthermore, we as fans are usually prepared to give one of ‘our own’ more backing due to the loyalty we express towards someone whose progress we’ve been able to witness first hand. New signings are often expected to deliver straight away – by contrast, when Fletcher first broke into the side, whilst some fans sided with Roy Keane in questioning his ability lots of fans backed him right up until the 08/09 season when it became clear just how good he is.

There are a couple of practical reasons to back our youth too. Firstly with the finances in interesting shape at the moment, promoting youth to the first team doesn’t involve a huge outlay on expensive transfers. At most it involves a slightly better contract for some deserving youngsters. Secondly, the new Premier League squad rules favour home-grown players and allow for players aged 21 and under (at the end of August) to play in the first team unregistered. It means that actually signing players right now would be rather impossible as the squad only has one spare space at the moment. Whereas our younger players can contribute without the need to be registered.

No one is claiming all our young players will continue to have fantastic careers at Manchester United but as Sir Alex said, “if you don’t give them an opportunity they’re going to stagnate and move to other clubs who’ll get the benefit of the work we’ve done with them”. We must trial them in our first team first, we’ve experienced losing some talented youngsters as a result of not giving them a proper go – Pique, Rossi, Tosic. On the other hand the club has definitely aided the careers of some youngsters by giving them a chance and helping them to get good transfers rather than lower league transfers that they may have got without the exposure – Simpson, Eagles, Spector, Frazier Campbell.

I’m certainly encouraged that on our forum, Man United fans have backed the calls for the youngsters to be played. The fans aren’t alone, lots of the players have backed the manager in recent interviews and have called for the youngsters to stake their claim. We have a plethora of players who have impressed when given the chance and/or have had successful loan spells.

Manchester United is a forward thinking club, there is never a standstill, Ferguson always makes sure that the future is catered for. A signing is always exciting but progress can come from within – it has been done previously, and I firmly believe that now is the right time to promote the next generation. They are already winners, so now we must back them and see if they can follow in the footsteps of their predecessors to help maintain the success we’ve become accustomed to.

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10 Comments on Manchester United must turn to youth

  1. Nobody can disagree with your sentiment – fans love to see the kids come through the ranks. Especially local players.

    It’s a question of balance. Introducing young players in 95 worked because Ferguson knew they were better than Ince, Kanchelskis and Hughes. I don’t know that Rafael is as good as Neville, Cleverley as good as Scholes or Obertan as good as Giggs … and so on. Youth needs to be backed up with top quality signings in the right positions too.

    The concern is that by not making signings we won’t strike that right balance. We’re hoping desperately that the kids come good … but hope is no kind of strategy.

  2. The youngsters are all good players. Their problem is that Scholes and Giggs in particular are showing no signs of slowing up. In ’95 the performance levels of some of the squad did start to tail off a bit.

    I believe that these kids must be given the opportunity sooner rather than later, there is no point in stockpiling them. No disrespect to some of the PL teams but there are games where you can get away with changing the side up a bit.

    The fact is that sadly at the end of the 10/11 season we are likely to have some retirements and are unlikely to have major funds to replace them. The replacements must come from within so they young players must be thrust in at the deep end sooner.

    The 3-0 away defeat to Milan a few years ago is a game a lot of the current squad state that they remember as the night they realised what they had to do. Some of the current youth must be exposed in those circumstances.

    I don’t believe for one minute that all the younger players in the team will make it at the club but some will and now seems to be the right time to take the gamble of backing them.

  3. Cleverley will be a big player and only need games. Him, Rafa, Fab, Kiko, Gibbo, Jonny, Corry, King, Eikrem, Gill, Cathcart along with likes of Ando, Nani, Javier, Diouf, Valencia will lead us to many lge and european cup success in the future, bank on it. Sir Alex is a genius, he knows what he doing by bleeding the youngests into the first-team, the man knows he got something special so dont need waste money. A new crop is ready to be unleashed, we are the unstoppable force.

  4. I believe we need a signing or two. No disrepect to the young player but we need some quality players. One or two doesn’t make much of the deal. With our money available as mention by the people, 95m is available for improving the squad. So i dont see why we cant spend. We need to prepare for future, who to say the players we buy wont stay at United for long?

  5. Okay guys, I think we’re close to saturation point with the “there’s potential for improvement from within” articles.

  6. Ian – to be honest, I think there is an element of hope with the quality of our youngster when addressing the regime that is currently in place at Old Trafford. We have no choice but to push these kids through – even if the Glazers are looking at increasing their market value for future sales.

    No one is denying (as the City clowns in the other post would like to think) that United are in the shit financially – with a model that makes the owners very rich and the football club in debt. However, I believe the author is trying to add a positive spin on our fortunes on the pitch, rather than gloss over the monumental problems we have as a club.

    However, i’m sure the author will respond and take your feedback on board. 😉

  7. Hi Ian

    You’re right in that every story related to Man United at the moment seems to talk to progress from within – noting in particular the youngsters.

    What a lot of fans fail to see though is that these youngsters are currently making that seeming-less transition into the core of the first team. It’s important that we make people aware of this. If things go badly these will be the players who will be criticised and it’s our job to get behind them from the very start.

    Lots of fans also want us to be making big big signings. I see on twitter all the time fans getting excited if a website has linked us with a £30million player from an Italian team but the reality is very different. Expect no signings and instead embrace what we do have. We aren’t a pessimistic club, and arguably this summer is and will continue to be frustrating as we’re used to something big happening. I’m just trying to divert a bit of attention away from that and enthuse the people who read this into putting that excitement into our youth.

    Personally, one of my biggest passions with regards to the club is with the Academy and the Reserves. I love to watch the progress of players who have been nurtured by our coaches. With the current crop of youngsters I am hoping other fans will also share my enthusiasm for backing these young players who all have either won something in their short careers or made a big impact out on loan.

    Finally, if it is a signing you want then Chicharito joins the squad soon. His World Cup performances were impressive and give us all something to grasp onto.

    Thanks for your feedback; whether it’s positive or negative I will take on board what you have to say. I take it that you aren’t necessarily a fan of reading about what we have already got at the club and I will try to mix it up. Unfortunately this summer there isn’t much going on at the club however. Try and hold out till the real football starts!

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