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The Graduates – a brief look at the future of Manchester United

For any United fans who witnessed the abject performances of Messrs Evans, Gibson et al against a plucky and determined and as painful as it is to say, a superior Southampton side over the weekend, fear not, the future is bright.  If, like me, you were watching that game wondering what had happened to our conveyor belt of quality, concerned about the lack of talent we had nurtured since the obvious, hopefully this article will help to restore some of that belief.

Firstly, like a boss in a corporate workplace we must start with the negatives and other members of the current crop.

Jonny Evans – Now when the Belfast boy first broke into the first team with consistently assured performances, I was of the belief that here was a real quality talent with a very bright future.  Whilst it is harsh to finger the blame for the capitulation at West Ham in the Carling Cup solely at one player, the sheer fact that he was ripped to shreds by the potent force that is Carlton Cole sums up his decline over the last 12 months.

Darren Gibson– Never going to be good enough for Utd.  Without the need to elaborate too much further on this, he is now 23 (24 this year!), when a player should really be establishing themselves in a team and he is still on the fringes at Old Trafford with no conceivable way of becoming the replacement for Scholesy. (I would even start Carrick in front of him!)  I can see Gibbo leaving the club in the summer and I certainly wont shed a tear.

Gabriel Obertan – Very raw, very quick and with a little more time on his side (he is 22 next month).  No end product at the moment and although I am in no way comparing them, neither did Ronaldo for the first season or Nani for the first couple.  Catch 22 is that he needs games but at the moment is not good enough to get them – a loan deal to a Premiership club would be ideal.

Rafael– Growing into the role more and more since breaking into the first team.  As long as he can curb his over-exubarrant tempremant when it comes to tackling then he will be a key player for us for years to come.

Fabio – Has been unlucky with injuries, hindering his development to the point where he has now fallen behind his twin brother in Fergies pecking order.  He was Brazil’s joint top scorer at the U-17 World Cup in 2007 illustrating his attacking prowess.

Now I know there are others that I have not mentioned eg. Wes Brown, John O’Shea as they have been at the club for many years and we all know what we are getting with each of them.  In addition to this, the likes of Bebe and Smalling still need much more game time before fair judgment can be passed. (also they were only bought at the start of the season so can’t be classed as being developed at the club.)

If you look around most Premiership and top Championship clubs, you will see a Utd graduate or two in the squad list.  Decent players but never good enough to do justice to the famous red shirt.  Heaton at Cardiff, Jones and Ebanks-Blake at Wolves, Fraizer Campbell at Sunderland to name but a few.  Of the lads out on loan – Wellbeck and Cleverley seem to have the required ability and mentality, Macheda and Mame Diouf – I think will be sold in the summer.  Matty James, Daniel Drinkwater, James Chester, Cameron Stewart, Richie De Laet and Nicky Ajose all seem to be developing well.  However it’s these lads who I cannot wait to see:

Ravel Morrison– As a 15 year old playing for Utd’s U-18 side against Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup in 2008, he produced a performance of real poise and raw ability that meant heads were turned, hopes were raised and superlatives lauded.  The British press does not need any excuse to hype up ‘the next big thing’ before destroying the image at the first possible opportunity but this lad has certainly got quality and controversy in abundance.  He made his debut in the Carling cup tie against Wolves earlier this season but since then has had his future at the club questioned due to ‘off-field issues’, rumoured to be involving bullying and gang culture.  If anyone can harness this kids potential, surely it is the master Fergie.  As he reaches his 18th birthday on Wednesday, it’s fair to say big things are expected in the very near future.  Check out the video below:

Paul Pogba– The risk Utd took in poaching the teenager from Le Havre now seems to be justified.  Utd sailed pretty close to the wind in their acquisition of the French enforcer, in much the same way as Chelsea signed Gael Kakuta.  However, according to, Franck Sale, the chief scout at Le Havre and the man who discovered Pogba playing on the streets of Paris, Utd have a real gem.

You can see a mix of [Patrick] Vieira and [Abou] Diaby in Pogba, a powerful and commanding player who is still good at moving with the ball and dribbling.  His one weakness during his time at Le Havre was stamina, but he did show signs of progression and surely, alongside coaching staff at Manchester United, he will improve.

Indeed he has and hopefully it will be Pogba and not Drogba striking fear into defences worldwide in future.

Will Keane– ‘Keano, there’s only 2 Keano’s???’  Although this song may not quite catch on and become a Stretford End anthem, the performances of the youngster from Stockport have certainly caught the eye.  The winner of the 2009 – 2010 Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award has consistently scored goals for the Utd reserves since and certainly has bags of talent in finding the onion bag.

Add to these 3 the names of Wootton, Devlin and Tunnicliffe and the chances of Utd maintaining their status as a successful and self-sufficient club seem very bright.  Whilst a couple of the current crop of graduates may have fluffed their lines, the class of 2011 certainly has the abilty and even if the Glazers wont get the cheque book out, they may not need to so long as Utd’s academy continues to churn.

Please tell me what you think of the current crop and who you expect to see making the breakthrough to the first team in the near future.



  1. Danny Salford Red

    February 4, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Decent article. Agree that Gibson simply isnt good enough. I reckon Evans is close to turning the corner and finding his form again. Rafael and Fabio will be club legends in my opinion. Excited about Morrison and Pogba but i have to say that reading he is in anyway similar to Abou Diaby makes my heart sink as for my money Diaby is utter crap. Hopefully fergie can give Morrison a good hard kick up the ass and put him on the straight and narrow. Seems a no brainer to me. A rich professional footballer who wants for nothing or a plastic wannabe gangster doing allsorts for money? If it were the first time fair enough but ive read stuff like this before about him and am praying he is not a big enough idiot to be impressed by that way of life.

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  3. Ella Patterson

    February 4, 2011 at 10:54 am

    What about the other Europeans such as Joshua King, Vermijl and Ekangamene? Joshua King looks to have developed physically and is now a real goal threat. he has really benefitted from his loan spells. I also think the bosses son, Oliver Gill and Nick Barmby’s son Jack look half decent prospects. The furure’s bright, the future’s United red!

  4. TScorpio

    February 4, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Generally agree with the comments in the article.

    Think Evans could do with a bit more love though – his fall from grace this season in particular has been horribly spectacular (though offset by the surprisingly great performances of Smalling) and the West Ham game you mention was certainly the low point. However, he was then taken out of the team, and his return vs Liverpool was very very good. He performed assuredly and I certainly had no complaints about his performance that day (was very worried before the game!). It was more like the Evans of old.

    I would certainly like to think that Evans still has a future at United and the poor form we have seen this season is just a blip in what will hopefully be a long and great career. It would not be unusual for a young player to go through a rough patch.

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  7. brownie

    February 4, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for the feedback guys. Greatly appreciated. I admit there are many other prospects I have missed off but I could have gone on forever if I had included everybody. I am not a Jonny Evans fan (as you may be able to tell!) and although I agree he looked better against the scousers, he was awful again against Southampton. I hope I am wrong and he goes on to prove, as you say, that this is just a blip but I seriously have my doubts.
    Josh King is a player I rate very highly as is Oliver Gill and I am certainly confident for the future. Give me a player brought through the ranks over a £25 million parade pony any day!

  8. owen

    February 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Yeah, we should sell Evans!

    Let’s not forget that whilst Vidic and Rio were out for so long last year, Evans stepped up to the plate, did well and helped (massively) to contribute to the fact we conceded least goals last year.

    But a few bad performances and “yeah, let’s sell him”.

    Plastic mug.

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