Sir Alex Ferguson’s illustrious career is littered with outrageous accusations, with his latest declaration that Manchester United are “probably the best” domestically at developing youth talent topping the pile. He may have masterminded the Golden Generation, but they are now confined to the history books, perhaps as one of football’s greatest abnormalities. So where do the club’s current crop of stars rank amongst their rivals?

You look at the way Barcelona have produced players and we’re not far off that.” (manutd.com)

Herein lies the issue I have with Ferguson’s comments. Barcelona’s youth academy encompasses more than simply producing technically gifted players, it promotes the philosophy of both human and sporting excellence. The respect and admiration it commands gives it an almost religious significance in football. In comparison with the present set-up in Manchester, it’s light-years ahead.

All over Europe, certain teams have developed a reputation that sees them aspire to or indeed influence the Barcelona ‘way of life’. Dutch outfit Ajax aren’t so much a club as a school, designed to nurture true leaders on the pitch. Just cast your eye over the following names, Johan Cruyff, Edwin Van Der Sar, Dennis Bergkamp, Marco Van Basten, Van Der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder and Nigel De Jong.

English football can only dream of breeding such extraordinary home-grown talent and perhaps highlights why the top clubs have recently snapped up three further Ajax graduates in the form of Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen and Vurnon Anita. Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon are another side famed for its ability to source the next generation of stars, I am sure United fans don’t need reminding of where Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo came form.

Ferguson points towards the FA Youth Cup success of 2011 as evidence to support his claim. However, Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba, arguably the two-standout members of that team have since completed bitter departures from the club. Is it fair to suggest that United are developing a worrying trend of producing players that sadly don’t possess the appropriate mentality of a professional footballer?

The interview moves on to see Ferguson hail the potential of Ryan Tunnicliffe, Jesse Lingard and Michael and Will Keane. Indeed, both Tunnicliffe and Will Keane were handed debuts in the recent Capital One Cup third round victory over Newcastle United, alongside Scott Wotten who has found himself increasingly on the fringes of the first-team thanks to the current defensive injury crisis. Yet, only time will tell as to whether any of these players will be able to establish themselves on United’s demanding frontline.

It’s easy to forget that the likes of Gerard Pique and Giuseppe Rossi were once on the books at Old Trafford. These are perhaps the two most high-profile names that have excelled since leaving the club but it’s also worthy mentioning the likes of Ryan Shawcross and Ben Foster. Should United’s youth academy be praised for producing accomplished Premier League players or condemned for failing to produce players that cannot benefit the club itself? With this is mind, how are United any different from Arsenal, both sides are either failing to hang onto their gifted players or failing to recognise their full potential.

The current Manchester United first-team does feature academy starlets Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, who have only just begun to make a positive impact on the international stage. In spite of their obvious talent, these players cannot be considered amongst the world’s best (yet) and nor are they part of a group of players capable of replacing the current line-up of stars.

Supporters of the club may disagree with everything I have written so far but let me ask you this: Would you rather the club produced one unique, exceptional individual every so often or several competent players capable of decorating the first-team because in my eyes, the current set-up is doing neither.

Continue the debate on Twitter @theunusedsub 

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  • sagar
    2 years ago

    wasted my time reading this …TBH

    Reply
  • Adi
    2 years ago

    writer surely dont get it…Man Utd have history of producing gr8 players since 1950s..but Barca has just started..may be they have few in 1990s…

    Reply
  • The Octoberman
    2 years ago

    Will keane is injured. I think the writer is refering to brother Michael.

    Reply
  • The Great
    2 years ago

    Your analysis is biased. You can hold a player down against his will. So, United is professional by releasing those guys. Mind ur business pls and leave United alone.

    Reply
  • Tboss kambewa
    2 years ago

    Surely wat a poor article yu mean to doubt Saf’s words haa is not factua tt we have been producing worldclass stars shame biased

    Reply
  • Evey
    2 years ago

    What an incoherent, rambling, mess of an article. Leaving aside even if you are right or wrong (that’s if you’re lucky enough to figure out what your point was).Digital journalism is just getting worse and worse,

    Reply
  • Dan
    2 years ago

    Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and the Nevilles were all world class players that played at united although Beckham had his head turned. We had our golden generation and now they have theirs. No doubt in a few years we will have ours with Welbeck and Clevs maybe being part of that.

    Reply
    • moejoe
      2 years ago

      Beckham did not want to leave United to go to Madrid, Ferguson no longer wanted him and as usual Ferguson was proved right as Ronaldo took United to that next level. Also, when I call Arsenal Barcelona’s feeding club, many fans throw back the same accusation at United and Madrid. But bottom line, out of all the players United sold to Madrid only ONE (Ronaldo) had his head turned and left against United’s preference. Beckham, RVP, Heinz all were sold after losing their guaranteed starting positions.

      Reply
  • Jimmy Murphys desciple
    2 years ago

    Fletcher, Evans, Giggs, Scholes, Welbeck, Cleverley, Wootton. All academy products who have appeared for the United first team so far this season. Out of the top ten clubs in europe only Barcelona have fielded more.

    You cant compare with Arsenal, or Liverpool for example who have blooded youth this season, as the expectancy to get results at MUFC is unrivaled. Titles need to be won and every point dropped is declared a crisis.

    Mufc have led the way in english youth development since the 50s, busby babes like duncan edwards, byrne, coleman, etc, best, charlton, kidd, styles, whiteside, greenhoff etc, up to the nevilles, butt, beckham etc.

    mufc has produced more england internationals than any other club, there is also more mufc academy products in english football than any other clubs.

    Mufc have also fielded at least one academy product in every single squad for over the last 3,000 matches.

    All this despite the 90 minute rule and coaching hour restrictions they don’t have to deal with abroad.

    The temperament, professionalism, attitude and footballing intelligence of the mufc academy graduates is often praised and stands out in comparison to other clubs.

    Finally the modern day and new crop. Go and watch an mufc academy match at carrington and you will often notice how the united a re smaller than 90 percent of the teams they come up agaisnt. Developing young english players with technical ability is prioritised. New coaching methods with 8-12 year olds were implemted 10 years ago. Cleverley and Welbeck were part of the first group who were taught these un-english methods which are proving very successful. In the next few years there are others who will materialise who are thought of very highly. There is a real buzz about the academy and excitement and confidence in the young players to continue the successful traditions that the club hold
    very proudly.

    Reply
  • MrMujac
    2 years ago

    Idiot!

    Reply
  • Deshane
    2 years ago

    Excellent article mate!!! I couldn’t have said it better myself. United r not even close to the standard of Barca’ in terms of producing talent. Barca’ produced players like Xavi, Inniesta, Fabregas, Busquets, Pedro, Pique, Messi, Puyol..which is greater than what MU ever produced. Even their current crop of youngsters breaking through namely Sergio Roberto, Gerrard Dolefeu(Star in the making),Bartra, Fontas, Rafinha r brilliant players. United have the likes of Petrucci, larnell cole, tunnicliffe, januzaj, daehli but SAF for some strange reason hasn’t given these youngsters a decent run in the 1st team. The problem is definitely SAF!!!

    Reply
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