How far should Sir Alex Ferguson search for his NEW Legends?

After reading Fergie’s mission impossible scouting task of finding his next three United legends.

Fergie Sets Scouts Mission Impossible (click link to view article)

I thought what makes this class of 92 trio so special? Is it that these 3 are truly United through and through, or their never ending loyalty to the club? I don’t think any player could be more Man United than David Beckham but he eventually got the boot… quite literally. Don’t get me wrong all 3 are legends in my eyes, but I wouldn’t consider any of them to be one of the best players in the world. OK Zidane said Scholes was the best player he played against so that does count for something.

Could you say that winning the FA Youth Cup in 92 was a defining moment for United, and what we would go on to achieve over the next decade and beyond? Defining for the players such as Giggs, Scholes, Neville, Beckham, Butt and the rest that went on to be professional footballers. What did Fergie see in these players at that age that he hasn’t seen in the youth players that have come through since?

We have a fantastic youth academy that over the years has created many decent professional footballers, just look at the list of footballers that play in the premiership brought through from United’s academy:

Ben Foster – Birmingham City

Paul Rachubka – Blackpool

Craig Cathcart – Blackpool

Phil Neville – Everton

Danny Simpson – Newcastle

Danny Higginbotham – Stoke

Danny Pugh – Stoke

Ryan Shawcross – Stoke

Phil Bardsley – Sunderland

Kieron Richardson – Sunderland

Frazier Campbell – Sunderland

Danny Welbeck – Sunderland Loan

Jonathan Spector – West Ham

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake – Wolves

David Jones – Wolves

Guiseppe Rossi – Villareal

Aswell as current United players:

Wes Brown

John O’Shea

Darren Fletcher

Jonny Evans

Federico Macheda

Darren Gibson

Danny Welbeck

Not to mention the many other players playing in the lower leagues, Scotland, or other foreign countries.

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Looking at the list could we already have had the new trio, but for whatever reasons, let them go? What makes United players so great, is them being ‘United’ players. At the academy in Carrington from the ages of 10 players mix and integrate with the first team, whether it’s sitting down eating dinner, seeing the physio or working out in the gym. The United way is instilled in them from a young age, brought through the youth ranks and then flourished into the first team. We should be proud to say that we have one of the best youth academies in the world, one that should be compared with the likes of the world famous Ajax youth system and the newly growing Johan Cruyff youth philosophy at Barcelona.

(click  link to view)    Johann Cruyff interview: Barcelona’s Soul

You could go through the list and safely say that all those players are doing well at their respective clubs, they’re all starting every week anyway. If Man United wasn’t so big, the need and demand for success wasn’t so high, could any of these players be still at United, playing well, and moving onto ‘legend’ status themselves, Possibly? Who?

I’m not just interested in United’s youth development but the development of English players, I remember the debuts of Phil Bardsley and Danny Simpson, they certainly didn’t look out of place, played well for a few games and I remember thinking this could be the end Gary Neville. But Fergie kept the faith in his ageing right back and it now looks as though one of the da Silva twins looks to be given the opportunity of fulfilling that position. Ryan Shawcross, centre half at Stoke, playing regularly and well for them, just a shame Rio and Vidic are arguably the best centre half pairing in the world right now.

The point I’m trying to make is do we have to scour the globe trying to find the next trio of legends? Look at Kiko Macheda, signed from Lazio at 16. I personally don’t think he is ‘United’ class, I know he’s scored a few goals, most notably against Villa, but when strikers score goals it can sometimes mask a players performance, and I feel that’s what happened with Macheda. Now because we signed him from Lazio, paid some compensation, does he warrant more of an opportunity than some of the other youth players? Look at Welbeck at Sunderland, playing fantastic and scoring goals, he looks like a premiership footballer. Do these players need to be moved on to become established pro’s? Is playing for United just too big of a stage for them?

We’ve created some decent footballers over the years, just unfortunate that the timing of their progression into the first team means they’re up against established world-class players. Do we have time and patience to let them progress, learn first-team football and allow them to make mistakes? I must admit I was one the many doubters in Darren Fletcher, I thought his technique was poor, gave the ball away to easily, his passing wasn’t the best, but he had a good engine, would do the ugly stuff.

He was given the chance, the time to settle in and become a first-team regular maybe even considered to be one of the first names on the team sheet. A perfect example of if you give them time and the opportunity they can succeed at ‘Uniteds’ level. After all who is likely to stick with the club and fight to the end if times ever go so tough that we weren’t succeeding? The scouser that cost over £25million or the academy product that’s been with the club from the age of 10.

One of the main reasons that the players that came through from that 92 youth team succeeded, was that all of them were thrown in together, left to develop and progress as a group, a sink or swim attitude that left Alan Hansen eating his own words. Did the winning 2003 youth team not have enough quality to be thrown in like the 92 team, or were they simply just not good enough? 14 of that squad have gone on to be professional footballers. Or has the game changed so much that taking such a risk on youth will never be done again?

So who out of the current youth players can step up? We’ve got some decent looking players coming through?

James Chester

Ben Amos

Tom Cleverley

Reece Brown

Richie de Laet

Daniel Drinkwater

Magnus Eikrem

Cory Evans

Matthew James

Joshua King

Ravel Morrison

Oliver Norwood

Davide Petrucci

Cameron Stewart

Nicky Ajose

So to answer my question, How far should Fergie search for his new legends, not very, in my opinion. I feel Fergie might not be waiting very long to find his next ‘legends’ for the club. In fact he might have already found them. Already at the club under his nose we have Tom Cleverley, Matthew James, Ravel Morrison and James Chester. I personally think these four all have the quality and potential to be top class players for United. But as they say, potential is one thing, fulfilling it is another. It’s just whether they’re given the time to fulfil it.

Article written by Sam Hewitt at the excellent NEW Manchester United Blog ‘Red Flag Flying High’

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