In response to the volatility of today’s footballing climate, Sir Alex Ferguson is starting to resemble his Arsenal counterpart due to his reluctance to spend big and a shared ethos on the importance of youth at both their respective clubs.
Sir Alex has been somewhat quiet this transfer window in comparison to previous ones. Ferguson parted with £10 million to bring former Fulham youngster Chris Smalling to Old Trafford and £8 million on Javier Hernandez; a potential bargain following his electric showing for Mexico at this summer’s World Cup.
Similarly, Arsene Wenger has been equally careful, bringing in Moroccan international Marouane Chamakh from Bordeaux on a free transfer and defender Laurent Koscielny on an undisclosed free (thought to be around £8.5 million) to replace William Gallas and Phillipe Senderos who have been allowed to leave the club.
While Wenger’s shrewdness in the transfer market is nothing new, Ferguson’s has developed due to a combination of factors. With today’s increasingly inflated transfer market representing little or no value for money, the onus is on developing in-house talent to avoid delving too deep into the rip-off world of expensive summer signings. Although David Gill insists that money is available for a potential big-name signing, the astronomical debt which the Glazer’s have saddled on the club dictates the need for a certain thriftiness in relation to club transfer policy.
Both Ferguson and Wenger are deeply committed to nurturing and developing young players who can ultimately fulfil their potential and feature heavily in their club’s future. Wenger has always been an advocate of the importance of youth academies to the livelihood of a club and the success of the Arsenal academy is testament to his belief. His Arsenal squad boasts young players who have come through the ranks to play for the Gunners on a regular basis. This includes club captain Cesc Fàbregas and Nicklas Bendtner. In addition to academy players, Wenger has bolstered his squad with players whom he has bought at a young age to supplement the talent already coming out of the academy program.
In his long reign as Manchester United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson has also been an advocate of giving youth a chance and this season’s crop of talent is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the manager’s dedication to youth development.
New signings Smalling and Hernandez have joined their new teammates on the Red Devil’s pre-season tour of America where Ferguson has been eager to blood some of his young talent. With those players who played at the World Cup receiving a break, the friendlies against Celtic and Kansas City provided an ideal proving ground for Ferguson’s young charges.
In their first game Stateside, United’s youngsters didn’t disappoint as the Red Devils ran out comfortable 3-1 winners against Celtic with Tom Cleverley and Danny Wellbeck amongst the scorers in Toronto.
Despite not scoring, French winger Gabriel Obertan put the misery of an injury-plagued first season at Old Trafford behind him with a promising performance against the Bhoys, crossing for Berbatov to score the opening goal. Obertan capped off an impressive tour so far by bagging the only goal in the 1-0 victory over Philadelphia Union.
The success of Ferguson’s youth system can be seen in the number of youth and reserve team players that now feature heavily in the Manchester United first-team. Recent graduates such as Darren Fletcher, Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson have all featured prominently last season in United’s push for silverware, along with fully-established players like Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes who have also come through the youth set-up at United.
Despite not being the best of friends, Ferguson and Wenger might have more in common than meets the eye. Alan Hansen famously stated “you’ll never win anything with kids!” Arsenal and Manchester United will be looking to prove him wrong.