End of the ‘Golden Era’?

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated 25 years in charge at Manchester United with a tribute evening last night in Manchester that included speeches from legendary players from past and present and an emotional video of the success that Sir Alex has brought to the club.

Over the years Sir Alex has used a mix of youth and experience as-well as academy players and big name signings. The era of the Neville’s, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs has come to an end, but it seems that another group of players could be in trouble of losing their places as Sir Alex and his fellow Premier League managers look for change.

After their humiliating 6-1 defeat to neighbours Manchester City last month, the United manager openly criticised Rio Ferdinand’s defending during the game and dropped him for the trip to Everton a week later. Before their 2-0 victory in the Champions League on Wednesday, Sir Alex told the press that Ferdinand had to adapt his game or lose his place at Old Trafford.

With Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans becoming first team regulars during this season, it could be tougher for Ferdinand to regain his place than people expect. Fellow central defender Nemanja Vidic has not covered himself in glory this season either; leaving an opportunity for the youngster to take their chance in the side. With both Ferdinand and Vidic in their 30’s, losing a yard of pace in inevitable and playing three games in seven days every week may not be possible.

Ferdinand is one of a number of players now breaching the 30 barrier that are starting to have questions asked about their form, fitness and ability in the Premier League. The so called ‘golden generation’ have been a consistent figure in the England team but surely it is time they fell away with dignity rather than try and hang on the places that are not rightfully theirs anymore.

Frank Lampard was dropped by Fabio Capello for two games for England this season after some poor form for Chelsea, but with his club game improving will he be thrown back in for the two friendly’s next week? Surely Lampard’s best is behind him and with youngsters such as Jack Wilshire and Jack Rodwell coming through strongly and the revitalisation of Scott Parker in the Premier League dominating; Lampard could be nearing the end of his international days, with his Chelsea place also coming under threat.

With Paul Scholes’ retirement at the end of last season pulling the curtain down on another fantastic career, another of the golden generation disappeared. Scholes’ replacement in the England team when he retired  from international football was Steven Gerrard; another player that has come in for some major criticism, mainly due to his injury problems that seem to never leave. Gerrard made a brief return to first team football last month but is once again on the sidelines and will miss England’s games next week, leaving question marks over his future.

With a hefty wedge of money spent on the Liverpool squad this summer, it will not be easy for Gerrard to walk straight back into the side if they are performing well and he is not 100% fit. The 31-year-old could see his final chance at a major international tournament pass him by next summer if he doesn’t return to fitness and form in time to impress the England staff.

The likes of Joe Cole, Jermaine Defoe and Michael Carrick all broke into the top level game at a similar time at West Ham, but all three seem to have fallen down the pecking order at their clubs in the past six months or so and that raises questions as to whether we have seen the best of them already. It will be tough for each of them to fight their way back into contention and it seems with more time they could just fall further down the ranks in their clubs.

This generation of players have been a joy to watch over the past ten years but it seems, them and more, are coming to their end of their prime in football and so will need to work extra hard to impress in the future, with reputation and history now not enough for a place in their side. A new look England side from that of four years ago will contest the Euro’s next summer and a breath of fresh air seems to be blowing the golden generation out of the way with no room for sympathy.

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