Have Manchester United unearthed a new golden generation?

Football FanCast
columnist
Stephen Darwin looks at the plethora of young talent coming
through the ranks of Old Trafford and wonders if United's new generation are
capable of making a similar impact, as the fabled class of 92.

Talk of blooding youngsters
seems to be the flavour of the month in football at the moment – and even Theo
Walcott is struggling to get a headline these days. All this hype has
inevitably built up within the media although there is no escaping from the reality
that there has been a sudden and somewhat unexplainable urge for certain
managers to give the green light to some of their undergraduates – the question
is, why now?

After a week of tabloid talk focussed exclusively on Arsenal's Carling Cup
prodigies, Sir Alex Ferguson opted to throw in a few prospects of his own
against Stoke on Saturday. Although is it fair to say that the likes of Darron
Gibson, Jonny Evans and Danny Welbeck will get more chances to impress the
Manchester United manager or was this an attempt by Ferguson to steal the
limelight from his French adversary?

With all things considered it must have been quite flattering for all three
youngsters to have been given the nod against a Stoke side who have already
quite categorically proved that they are not just in the Premier League to make
up the numbers. With the quality of England's top flight and the necessity for
the title challengers to build up momentum, it becomes difficult and a risk to
some extent for the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea
to give youth a chance in the league.

Danny Welbeck deservedly took the plaudits for a stunning debut goal on
Saturday, although Darron Gibson's inclusion may well have proved something of
a godsend for the 21-year-old midfielder and his international hopes. With
Giovanni Trapattoni in attendance at Old Trafford, the Derry born youngster
offered a reminder to the Italian maestro that he could play a significant role
for the Republic of Ireland in their World Cup qualification campaign and
beyond.

Be it less than half an hour of action, Gibson will be hoping that more regular
outings at Old Trafford will mean that he is a mainstay within the Irish squad.
Although can the former Royal Antwerp player really dream of permanently
ousting Carrick, Hargreaves, Anderson, Fletcher and Scholes in the not too
distant future or will a move elsewhere be the only viable option?

It is certain that the player who spent much of last season on loan with Wolves
will be desperate not exercise the latter option and instead make an impression
at Old Trafford. Although given the vast amounts of academy central midfielders
that have simply failed to live up to expectations over the years, you would
have to feel that Gibson is running out of time to stake his claim.

Despite my relative pessimism, Gibson is set to win his fourth cap for Ireland
tomorrow when they entertain Poland in a friendly at Croke Park and is himself
optimistic about the future, believing that United will keep producing youngsters
capable of forcing their way into the reckoning.

In an extract from the Times, the United
midfielder is quoted as saying: "There
has been a lot of hype about the Arsenal youngsters, but we showed on Saturday
that we have some good youngsters as well,"

"The youth system is good and I think we will keep
producing the youngsters. I was delighted to make my league debut. I think I
did quite well after I came on."
Gibson
added.

When you look at the progress
of Frazier Campbell at Tottenham and the emergence of Brazilian pair Rafael and
Possebon, it becomes even easier to appreciate Gibson's comments. With five or
six promising youngsters steadily being introduced to the first-team squad at
Old Trafford, could we go as far as suggesting these are times reminiscent to
the days of Beckham, the Neville brothers, Butt and Scholes? With age clearly
against the likes of Scholes, Neville and Giggs, now is as good a time as any
for young United hopefuls to make their mark.

So as the dust settles on stories relating to the wonderkids from North London,
is it fair to suggest that the current crop of Manchester United starlets are
about to take the Premier League by storm? Could players such as Campbell,
Welbeck, Gibson and Evans really create the backbone of Manchester United
title-winning sides of the future, much like the golden generation of the 90's?
Or do you share my opinion that this all a bit premature and the best these
young players can hope for is a parting endorsement from Sir Alex as time
inevitably runs out on their United careers.