It only seems like yesterday but it has been all of 15 years since former Liverpool star and BBC football pundit Alan Hansen coined his memorable phrase “You’ll never win anything with kids” following Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the 1995-96 campaign. Those “kids” of course went on to win the double by the end of that season forcing the unfortunate Hansen to forever be stuck with those words.
His comment was in reference to the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson had just sold the experienced Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis that summer and introduced several youth team players including Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville into the first team.
Well it now looks certain that Ferguson is about to unleash another group of youngsters onto the Premier League insisting that their emergence will give him a stronger squad than the one which came to within a whisker of taking the title last season. There are many critics who doubt his judgment including United fans who believe that the huge debts forced on the club by the Glazers has prevented the acquisition of badly needed reinforcements.
Sir Alex sees it differently because he has complete faith in a proven system where managing the careers of young players in order to keep them at the club is paramount. “The history of Manchester United is quite simple” he says proudly “it has always been based on young people and that’s where we’re more comfortable. I think our fans are more comfortable too. So producing players is a big incentive for us. We know the response we get from supporters when we produce a player through the ranks, through our youth system. It’s a fantastically satisfying thing also.”
“At the moment we have a collection of young players who have been growing up at the club for the last few years like Danny Welbeck, Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson and Federico Macheda. These young players are developing very well at the club, some players are coming through like young Oliver Gill and young Corry, Jonny Evans’ brother.”
Ferguson then goes on to make the point that “We’ve a fine collection of young players who 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’ve had experience of that in the past” he remembers “so we try to avoid that as best we can and make sure we make the right decisions about these boys’ careers, because most of them are very good talented players.”
The manager has no doubt that the US tour will be a good test for these players. They will be trying to make an impact before those who took part in the World Cup link up with the team back in England. Ferguson shrugged off any concerns about Wayne Rooney’s disappointing form in South Africa and is confident he will soon shake off the frustration of his World Cup performance.
“I don’t expect a hangover. I think there’ll still be a bit of disappointment in the lad. I think all the players coming back from the World Cup who didn’t do well, who didn’t reach their expectations may I say, will feel that they’ve missed something” he said “that’s because the World Cup’s only once every four years. That’s the horrible part of that tournament. We have several players who have come back very, very disappointed. We’ve Patrice Evra for instance, Wayne Rooney of course, and Nemanja Vidic.”
Sir Alex does have someone coming back from South Africa full of confidence however “I think one player who will come back quite positive because he had a good World Cup is young Javier Hernandez from Mexico. I think he did very well and he surprised a lot of people” he said ”so whereas we’ve got some disappointments from players like Wayne, Nemanja and Patrice, I think we’re going to have a positive effect from Javier.”
There’s one certainty that can be guaranteed at the beginning of the new season, all the football pundits will choose their words very carefully should Ferguson’s youngsters happen to suffer one or two early defeats.
Is Ferguson being wise placing so much faith in his youngsters?