Manchester United’s new kids on the block
After United’s youth team achieved a fantastic come-back win at Anfield to send them through to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals I take a look at United’s current emerging crop and ask whether or not they have what it takes to make it to the big time.
Always a big game at any level Liverpool vs United never fails gets the juices flowing and it didn’t disappoint on Sunday, five goals and four red cards tells of a feisty competitive derby game but it was also very easy on the eye. However it was the Reds of Manchester who progressed and can be extremely proud of themselves as they fought back from 2-0 down to win 3-2, in front of the watching Sir Alex Ferguson! Many at the club feel that this crop can progress all the way to the final and to the first team.
Now it would be churlish of me to suggest that every one of this current crop of young players will make the first team, even the famed class of ’92 didn’t all make it, but as a regular watcher of the reserves and under 18’s I’m not the only person recognising the talent at our disposal, the boss is too. In recent weeks a number of the youth team have been involved with the first team squad, Josh King in particular who has been a regular on the bench in recent weeks.
The nineteen year old Norwegian (who is built more like a twenty-six year old) is a bullish forward who lives for goals, he does however face a difficult task breaking into United’s first team with the wealth of talent at disposal but an area where many feel an influx of youth might help is in the midfield. Now surely there is no such thing as a nailed on certainty for making it but the are two in the midfield ranks who come as close to that mantle as possible.
Frenchmen Paul Pogba and local lad Ryan Tunnicliffe are the silk and steel to United’s midfield, they have been impressive this season and have been rewarded with first team call ups, including the European trip to Marseille. Tunnicliffe plays like an average fan on the street would want to play if they played for United. Driving runs from midfield and Roy Keane-esque tackles, he is not part of the engine room, he is the engine room. He is a fantastic player and I do see a place for him in the United team, if not this season then soon.
As for Paul Pogba you may be familiar with him as he was the player who United signed last season from Le Havre, the French club then decided that United had poached the seventeen year old and attempted legal proceedings against United. However, Pogba came to United and has flourished since. An expert from set pieces the midfield playmaker has been compared to a young Patrick Viera and admittedly he does have a similar physique and demeanour to the former Arsenal captain but he’s got more to his game than Viera. Both impressed at Anfield however Pogba was dismissed on fifty-five minutes in bizarre circumstances when he received a second yellow for stalling in his run up for United’s penalty, he can consider himself extremely hard done by. Meanwhile Tunnicliffe was a strong contender for man of the match playing out of his skin to compensate for the loss of Pogba. If you had to point to the future of United’s midfield then these two would surely be in the reckoning but they do have a long way to go.
From this current set though there is one stand out player, he is the jewel to United’s youth crown he is England youth international Ravel Morrison. Although he’s been in the news for the wrong reasons recently he has done nothing wrong whilst on the football pitch and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of a wreck less streak, is there? You only need to watch the endless clips on YouTube to see the talent that this boy possesses, he is a huge prospect and he lived up to his billing at Anfield scoring two goals including a stunning volleyed winner.
After the first team saw off Arsenal in their own cup competition I heard one United fan suggest United should attempt to prise Jack Wilshere away from the Emirates. Wilshere is a nifty midfielder and has the chance to become a top player no question but as a London lad would not want to come up to Manchester but more to the point if we can keep Morrison on the straight and narrow, I’m telling you, we will have a better player. A player who makes the game look so easy, a goal scorer, a playmaker he can even tackle, Daniel Taylor of the Guardian claims that senior figures inside Old Trafford claim that he is the most naturally gifted player to come through the ranks since Paul Scholes, high praise indeed. His versatility is also a strong point, he can play anywhere across the midfield and up-front, a proper footballer. Surely out of the four I have mentioned, he has the best chance.
Those of you who watch the youth team will remember the last time United won the FA Youth Cup which was back in 2003 and I’m sure that blogs were written at the time praising up and coming youngsters in that squad such as Kieron Richardson, Chris Eagles, Daniel Nardiello and Mads Timm and although all of them have gone on to make good careers for themselves many in the top flight they could not make the grade at United. Now it is good to see United youth products flourishing elsewhere but not as good to see them impressing at Old Trafford and if United youngsters aren’t making the grade then surely this undermines the whole premise of a youth system.
United only want the best of the best of course and I have had the privilege of speaking to former United forward Brian Mclair who now heads United’s Academy and youth system and he told me that out of a crop of two hundred eleven year olds brought to United’s Trafford Training Centre only one, maybe two will be expected to make the grade, this shows just how hard it is.
I have only mentioned three players in this article but these are not the only ones worth looking out for by any stretch, talented forward Will Keane, the solid defensive partnership of Oliver Gill and Scott Wooton is also worth a mention. As I have already said, there is no chance that the whole team will make the grade, but if United can get four regulars from this bunch the future will be bright indeed.