As Sir Alex Ferguson today said in the USA, as his club begin their north American summer tour, Manchester United are a club known for its policy towards youth. Finding talented young players and then training them and watching them mature into good footballers is what nearly all top football clubs do. The difference with Manchester United is that the club actually give them a chance in the first team. Not just sporadic Carling Cup starts and FA cup substitute appearances but chances in meaningful and important clashes. At Manchester United such a strategy has precedent.
From the Busby babes over half a century ago to the Fergie fledglings of the mid 1990’s Manchester United have never been afraid to throw talented young players in the deep end. The strategy this time has been a little more nuanced with appearances coming steadily but slowly, being guided into the pool instead of thrown in.
The likes of Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck, Rafael Fabio and Darron Gibson have been making odd appearances for almost two seasons now. Gibson and Rafael even started in a Champions League quarter final this season. These two are likely to become very prominent over the next ten months. Rafael might not appease everybody with his youthful inexperience which is usually revealed when in a one-on-one situation. Obviously a player more gifted going forward then backwards Rafael often struggles in the tackle and knowing when to follow his man. Gibson frustrates Manchester United fans with his frenetic running, which often seems misguided, his inability to see a pass when the whole world knows he is about to shoot and his lack of presence in midfield when the team has their backs against the wall. With Macheda, Fabio, Welbeck and the likes of Gabriel Obertan and Tom Cleverly too, seemingly very impressive on loan last season, Manchester United fans will have similar worries.
What no Manchester United fan will do is judge Sir Alex Ferguson’s ability of knowing which young players have the quality to make the grade at Old Trafford. The players might not have proved it so far but if Sir Alex Ferguson has faith then so do the fans. Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted this season the current crop of young players will prove their worth at the theatre of dreams so we can expect to see the likes of Macheda, Fabio, Rafael, Gibson and Obertan featuring even more. This season is their chance. It appears Cleverly and Welbeck will be heading out to other Premiership clubs on loan with a view to returning in 12 months time and establishing themselves at Manchester United.
In the past couple of seasons the club have lost Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo, saw Rio Ferdinand develop an injury jinx, Dimitar Berbatov deteriorate and Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville age some more. What doesn’t change at Old Trafford is the belief in young quality.
Sir Alex Ferguson says there is a rejuvenation happening at his club and the players are worthy of their chance. Johnny Evans has already established himself as a prominent first team player, by the end of the 2010/2011 campaign Sir Alex Ferguson believes Rafael, Fabio, Gibson and Macheda will have joined him.