Man Utd’s Generation Next: Can They Keep The Legacy Going?

Nearly two decades ago, at a time when Man United were still struggling for a long awaited league triumph that had deserted the Reds for well over quarter of a century, an army of young kids, more ubiquitously known as the Class of ’92 were being groomed, kids who would go on and define how English Football was going to be seen in the coming decades as they swept aside all and sundry in the league and even in continental football, helping United conquer 12 league titles in 18 years to go along with 2 Champions League triumphs.

Fergie Classes!

But looking at in hindsight, the way of the Fergie’s Fledglings, as they were(and still are) famously known amongst the United faithful, was not the easiest or devoid of critics, it was towards the end of 1995 summer tansfer window that Alan Hansen made his egregious rant against United’s youth-oriented team after their opening day defeat to Aston Villa.

“You’ll never win anything with kids”

-Alan Hansen, ex-Liverpool footballer and BBC pundit

Today though, with everyone barring Ryan Giggs from the fabled Class of ’92 no longer at the club, the club is in a period of transition where United have been linked with ‘superstars’ and more ‘superstars’ as an ephemeral fix to United’s ambitions. Yet, there is another generation of young yet prodigiously talented players that are coming through the ranks trying to lay firm claims for themselves to be a part of Manchester United’s first team plans this season and for the time to come.

Much on the same note, I look at some of the brightest talents at United who could well be thrust into the big time this season and who could be the backbone of United’s first team for some time to come and indeed be regulars for their national team’s  too.

Tom Cleverley

The 22 year old Hampshire born Tom Cleverley has been at Man United ever since he was a 15 year old school boy and has progressed through the club’s youth and reserve ranks to now lay a claim for a place in the first team. Two loan spells to Watford and Wigan over the course of the last two seasons, have both been thoroughly successful for the youngster, so much so that he even earned Watford’s player of the season during his spell at Vicarage Road and earned rave reviews during his time at Wigan Athletic helping them steer away from relegation.

“He’s not like Scholes in controlling the tempo of a game, opening everything up and shooting on sight. He’s more like a Barcelona player, quick with his one-twos. He is great taking up positions in space and works ever so well with Rooney.  If he doesn’t make it big at United and England I’ll jump in the Manchester Ship Canal.” 

-Eric Harrison, Legendary Man Utd Coach

Naturally a central midfielder who seeks to ‘pass and move’, he’s thoroughly comfortable with the ball at his feet, a trait that has seen him draw widespread comparison to the legendary Paul Scholes. In addition, he’s never one to shy away from putting his feet into tackled or tirelessly run through the entirety of a game. What makes even more special to a team’s cause is his versatility that has seen him play as a centre midfielder, on the wings and even as a fullback during his younger days.

And if his displays in the Community Shield and the Premier League opener against West Bromwich are anything to go by, Cleverley is here to stay and for quite a long time. The long term future for United indeed hinges on thinking ‘Cleverley’.

Danny Welbeck

Already capped for England’s senior team, Danny Welbeck is Manchester born and Manchester bred and the only team he has ever supported and dreamt of playing for is Manchester United. A regular to United’s matches as a child, Welbeck has made massive strides to become a future star in his own right for the club of his dreams. Last season at Sunderland saw him grow into one of Mackems’ key players, scoring some essentially key goals for Sunderland despite often being played on the wings, rather than his favoured position of a central striker.

Expectations from Welbeck at United are huge, as he’s seen to have a bright future at the Theater of Dreams. The lanky forward still only 20, has some way to go before becoming a regular at United but with his blistering pace and the ability to consistently beat his man with pace, dribbles and trickery, he does have a vital part to play for United even if it may be in the form of substitute appearances. And despite being a forward, his work rate and his will to track back is commendable, something that United fan’s have longed for in Berbatov during his United career. All said and done, Welbeck has all the ingredients for being a quality striker in the future not just for Man Utd but also for his National Team- England.

Chris Smalling

The footballing journey that the 21 year old Smalling has traversed over the last 3 years is truly stuff of dreams, moving from non-league Maidstone United to biggest club in the country Manchester United playing a crucial part in their record 19th title scalp. Already called up to English national team, the centre half has widely been acclaimed as the ‘next big thing’ in the reasonably long line of intimidating English defenders.

“He has improved a lot. He is also playing with confidence. When he goes forward he doesn’t play with fear.”

Fabio Capello, England Manager

Already the face of United’s next generation starlets, Smalling has  made 35 appearances for United to date and his no non-sense style of defending has drawn widespread acclaim. Despite the occasional lapse in concentration, his sense of positioning and mean tackles has already made him a fan favourite. Even though, with Vidic and Ferdinand still undisputed starters at the back, Smalling would get opportunities galore  at the back as a centre half or as a right back, and if the last one year is anything to go by, sky is the limit for him.

David de Gea

The 20 year old Spanish stopper was brought in from Atletico Madrid in £18 million pound move, one of the most expensive ever for a goalkeeper. The task that he faces is as arduous as it can get as he looks to replace one of United’s all time best goalkeepers Edwin van der Sar. Its paramount for him and United to avoid another post-Schmeichel era where the United defence was frequently punctured to a leaky cauldron by keepers such as dope-downing Mark Bosnich, calamity Massimo Taibi,  dolt Roy Carroll and clumsy oaf Fabian Barthez.

He has the talent and posseses good ability when it comes to his shot stopping in general(not great by any means) and in terms of throwing the ball forward to start counters, though his positioning is still pretty suspect that has already cost United goals. But he’s still young, he has much to learn in football and has big shoes to fill but under the guidance of THE best in the business, that isn’t entirely impossible. The faithful at the Theatre of Dreams would like him to turn out to be one of the long list of Sir Alex’s youth prodigies turned into world class players.

Phil Jones

Built like a bull, Phil Jones has already drawn wide spread comparisons to England captain John Terry for his style of play and dominant defending. He had apparently been ear marked by Sir Alex to be a future United centre half but with Liverpool’s interest this summer, the move has happened sooner than what was to be. Not withstanding that, Phil Jones has already impressed one and all with his displays in the red jersey of Man Utd in the limited games that he has played thus far.

“It is not easy to find a player who is so young that can play with so much confidence. We need to wait because so far he has played one Premier League game and some minutes at Wembley. But potentially he is a fantastic player.”

– Fabio Capello, England Manager

Phil Jones is something different from usual run-of-the-mill defenders, for a defender his immaculate passing(at least thus far) is quite unique and he is keen to have the ball at his feet and play it forward. Strong in the tackle and with his bull-like physique would prove to be handy in the air, further more, his positioning in general seems pretty impressive for a 19 year old boy. Not to forget his versatility either that can see him play as a defensive midfielder or his natural centre half position. The potential in him is insane, and seems destined for big things with United and England while pwning quite a few strikers along the way. Heir to Nemanja Vidic- THE fuckin’ monster?

The Twins- Fabio and Rafael

The twins- Fabio and Rafael da Silva were signed from Fluminense back in 2008 and since then both have made quite vital contributions to United’s quest for silverware. Both have already had the taste of being in the squad for a Champions League final, Rafael in ’09 in Rome(though as an unused sub) and Fabio was a starter in United’s defeat to Barcelona last season at the New Wembley.

Rafael, Fabio! Oh maybe Fabio, Rafael?!? Erm…

While you still might not be able to differentiate between them, it is still fairly accurate to say that both have bright futures at United. Rafael, barring that odd moment of rashness, has done well through out his time, defending well and getting forward as well, at times looking more offensively fashioned than his twin. And who is to forget him pwning Gareth Bale, and Franck Ribery before his sending off. Fabio, despite being the slower of the two to get off the blocks has lately found more first team action than his brother, and I for one, believe that he is better defensively than Rafael as well. He can ably cover both RB and LB spots and if Evra’s poor run prolongs, Fabio could well displace him sooner than expected.

Fan fantasy or semblence of reality a few years down the line?

And The Trio- Ryan Tunnicliffe, Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison

The trio have done well for the Man Utd reserves and the academy team over the course of the last one year or just about a bit less, and while at first glance, they may not be given immediate first team action at the club, they sure are worth looking out for.

Ryan Tunnicliffe, 18, has continually impressed the United reserves/academy watchers with his intelligence and ability to make a pass tick, and is pretty good defensively too. This season is critical for him though, as  his loan spell at Fergie Jr’s Peterborough could well kickstart his career. And with all of this, there is also an underlying tenacity and the will to fight in him, that has made some to draw parallels with Keano, whether befitting or not, only time would tell.

Paul Pogba, he’s big, he’s strong and he built like a monster, standing out in  the crowd of kids. Team’s might need a 2 man or a 3man midfield usually, but for the reserves even a 1 man midfield featuring Pogba might be enough, some of his passing and intelligence on the pitch is outstanding and with his size and muscle, he can really cramp down on opposition players. If all goes right, he could probably be the first to break through at United among this trio.

Fast forward to FIFA 2014- Pogba’s Shot rating = 99. Wonder why? Have a look at the vid below.

Ravel Morrison is without question Man Utd’s controversy kid. Arguably the most talented of the lot but the problems with him lie off the field. He has the pace,  fiery shot and the silky twists and turns that you would need to be a top player but what matters right now is how quickly Morrison can have his head sorted out, or if he can do it all? It’ll be a shame though if United were to lose out on him due to off field misdemeanours.

Read full article- MUFCI Blog

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