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Can Manchester United’s Youngsters Crack Barcelona?

Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson are not used to being second place, nor do they like being in second place. However, right now, they find themselves in that unfamiliar and unfortunate position behind the European Champions, Barcelona.


Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson are not used to being second place, nor do they like being in second place. However, right now, they find themselves in that unfamiliar and unfortunate position behind the European Champions, Barcelona.

When the day was out on the 28th May, after Lionel Messi and David Villa had weaved their magic to seal another Champions League win over the Red Devils, it was clear for all to see, that United were the inferior force. No matter how well United were able to grind out victories in that title winning season – where the team were able to stick together and grab a late goal to win a game – it wasn’t enough to overcome Barcelona.

Sir Alex Ferguson said that although Barcelona are an “exceptionally good team,” he is excited with some of the young players coming through at Old Trafford and has urged those youngsters to learn from the European loss, and come back fighting.

We can only assume which players Sir Alex is referring to, but it is no secret as to who the exciting young players are at United. There are those who have already broken into the first team, such as the Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio, and then there’s those who have only really tasted the first team at other clubs on loan like Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck.

There is a deep pool of talent at United, and some of them will have to step into rather large boots next season, especially if the United manager decides not to invest heavily in his midfield which is now without Paul Scholes.

There has been talk of United signing Wesley Sneijder, among others, and Ferguson has acknowledged that his midfield is a weak area in comparison to other areas of the pitch at the moment. But with the integration of certain young players, United may be capable of challenging Barcelona again.

Cleverley and Welbeck, a midfielder and striker respectively, are to be at the very least squad players next season. Ferguson has confirmed they are not to be loaned out again, and they have been promised a place in the managers plans next season.

In central midfield, Tom Cleverley is confident of being able and ready to replace Paul Scholes – he has said as much himself. According to the Wigan first team coach, Graham Barrow, Cleverley is “a bit special,” has made “incredible progress” and has “oozed quality” during his time at Wigan. Sir Alex agrees: “He is an intelligent modern-day footballer. His movement and understanding of space is really good for a young player.”

He’s certainly a fighter – he needed all of his fighting qualities to help Wigan stay in the Premier League after a tough relegation battle. He gets stuck in, is versatile and can pass the ball. He isn’t at Paul Scholes’s level of quality – very few players are, but given the chance in the United first team, helped with the guidance of Sir Alex, the other United coaches and veteran players, he can shine, and make his mark.

Welbeck meanwhile is described by Ferguson as an “exceptional talent.” He had a brilliant season on loan at Sunderland where he was a first team regular, proving that he can play against the top Premier League sides with 28 games and 6 goals. He also impressed with a couple of goals for England’s Under 21’s, and is an all round different kind of striker than what United have at the moment.

Whereas Rooney, Chicharito and Michael Owen are smaller players, with Rooney being powerful and Hernandez and Owen being poachers and top class finishers, Welbeck is tall, can beat defenders, has a good touch and has a hell of a lot of potential. He’s also a local Manchester lad, which will only help his cause among the United faithful.

With the powerful, no nonsense presence of new signing, 19 year-old Phil Jones now at the club, alongside the surprise package of a very steady and solid Chris Smalling, the defence looks good. With players like Ferdinand and Vidic to look up to, they should have no excuses not to become Manchester United rocks of the future.

I can’t help but feel it is Anderson’s last chance to show everyone what he is about next season in midfield, especially if Sneijder doesn’t come in. He is still young, at 23 and also has a lot of potential – but has been growing more recently quite well, with an increased number of impressive midfield performances and goals.

United also have some talents in the reserves, with players such as Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison and Ryan Tunnicliffe receiving rave reviews from reserve and academy enthusiasts.

The question is, can these players come into the first team soon and play together in a way which is enough to beat the likes of Barcelona? The good thing about Manchester United is, that there is always the right balance between the older players with experience and know-how, with the younger players with energy and youthful enthusiasm. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, that is guaranteed.

I believe, that even without the signing of a perceived world class midfielder this summer, United can still win the Premier League and give a good fight for the Champions League (although signing a player like Sneijder would certainly increase their chances of these happening.) Barcelona’s reign as the best will pass, especially when the likes of Xavi and Iniesta retire like Scholes has at United, and Sir Alex knows this.

If he can build a team, starting now, with the youngsters he has at his disposal, and allow them to grow into world beaters by the time Barcelona begin to wane, United will become the team to beat once again, and will no longer have to settle for second place.

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  1. karthik

    July 21, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I think your analysis is little bit flawed.You are only thinking as a Man U fan..Iniesta is just 27 yrs old..He still has a lot to offer.If Manu can get sneijder,so can the other top teams…Barca is looking to get fabregas,so that he can be an understudy to Xavi until he retires….Thiago Alacantra is a better prospect than Cleverly..Scholes is a legend…Expecting Cleverly to fill Scholes Shoes is too much for that young guy….Like Sir AF said ,This is a cycle where barcelona is at the top now….IN 3 to 4 years…Manu and other teams might be at the top of the cycle….

  2. Brian

    July 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Messi 24
    Iniesta 27
    Pedro 23
    Thiago 22
    Affelay 24
    (Xavi and Vila still have at least 2 good years left)

    Plus if Cesc and Sanchez are signed they are only 24-23 respectively !!!

    So take a pick…which youngsters are going to be better ..Barca youngsters or Man Utd ?

    For me Barca will still be at the top of their game in the coming 3-4 years at least !!

    • Barnie

      July 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      Ya there is a fi

    • Laura

      July 21, 2011 at 11:27 pm

      Thiago is 20.

      Interesting article, albeit a bit one-sided. You talk about the youngsters coming through at United but completely ignore those developing at Barca. It’s not like the talent pool is going to instantly run dry once Iniesta and Xavi hang up their boots.

      Thiago, his younger brother Rafa, Gerard Deulofeu, Javi Espinosa, Jean Marie Dongou – to name but a few, are all VERY exciting prospects coming through the ranks at FCB.

      Good luck to United though. Good to see them giving opportunities to young talent.

  3. Adnan

    July 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Lets see now!!! I think Man U can do it in their own stride either this year or next without the need for anyone to retire!! We have Sir Alex in charge and over the years he had many dragons looking to break his empire but he always had the last laugh!! So as a Man U fan I hope for the best!!!

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