I was watching ‘Class of 92’ the other day. It’s about six kids who’ve been together from the age of 13-14, play for the club they have supported all their lives (Except Scholsey of course who is an Oldham Athletic supporter). To top everything, they achieved a feat that no British club could emulate, winning the treble. Despite reaching the footballing pinnacle they were more than just fantastic footballers though. Mentors like Eric Harrison made sure that the players remain true to the values of this great footballing institution. These guys footballing heroes to the world yet they still remain humble and down to earth. This idea of local lads taking the club to the next level so romantic. But at the same time, so United!
While Fergie and Class of 92 get credit for this romanticism, people forget it all started with Sir Matt Busby. It was him who put his faith in youth before anyone in the world. “If they are good enough, they are old enough” was his mantra. We know all about Busby Babes. And we know how we raised from ashes like Phoenix after Munich tragedy in 1958. One of the reasons for that fightback was Sir Matt had an eye for a good young talent. From United team that defeated Benfica in the European Cup final of 1968, 8 out of 11 players including George Best, Bobby Charlton and Nobbie Stiles came through youth team ranks. It’s been over 3000 weeks that United first team always had a youth team player. Nurturing a young player into first team has always been our identity.
Well that identity has supposedly received a slight blow. Boyhood United supporter and crowd favourite Danny Welbeck has been sold to Arsenal on a deadline day. Danny wants assurance of starting every game and the manager made it clear that he won’t get it here. Tom Cleverley unites with Roy Keane at Aston Villa and will be a free agent after this season. Many supporters are hurt specially about Danny’s departure and so are former associates. Eric Harrison and Mike Phelan are not very happy about it. They think we are loosing our identity. Press seems to think the same. United is an easy target specially Arsenal and Liverpool forming teams with British core of players after many years. After signing 6 players, We are touted as Galacticos. General notion is, just like Real Madrid we are paying little too much for established players sacrificing home grown talent. But let me save you the suspense, it is not true.
It’s no secret that since overtaking the club in 2004, Glazers are ripping us off. That coincided with transitional period between 2003 and 2006. Press thought our manager then is turning into a Dinosaur and club is on decline. But everyone knows what happened. Since Glazers took over, United has been the most successful club in England with 5 leagues and 1 champions league. The entire success is down to genius of one Sir Alex Ferguson because I doubt if there is any other manager who will keep any team so competitive on domestic as well as European scene despite not spending much on world class players. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some statistics.
Players we signed in 2004-05 were Heinze, Alan Smith, Wayne Rooney and Liam Miller. In 2005-06 Van Dar Saar, Park were followed by Vidic, Evra in January and in 2006-07 Carrick to replace one of the greatest box to box midfielder of all time and Henrik Larsson on loan for 3 months. 2007-08 was a relatively good year as far as spending is concerned and Nani, Ando, Hargo, Tevez (Loan) arrived at the club. Their contribution in winning the League and UCL double cannot be questioned but due to injuries and underperforming in coming seasons we never got the best out of them in a long term and since 2009 midfield has been the area of concern. Then Ronaldo left in 2009 and to everyone’s horror arrivals were Tony V, Obertan and ever injured Michael Owen. Chicharito in 2010-11 and Phil Jones, Big Dave in 2011-12 and when we were short of midfielders, Paul Scholes was resigned to everyone’s surprise. RVP and Shinji arrived for 2012-13 yet midfield issue was not resolved.
Now compare that spending and quality of players brought in with Chelsea, City or rest of the European giants. I’m not at all trying to dismiss players that were brought in but how many times have you seen United bringing a world class player in his peak in last 10 years? Compare that with Real getting the likes of Ronaldo, Bale or Bayern getting Robben, Ribery or even Gotze for that matter and you will know what I’m talking about. If you want to stay competitive at very high level, you need to spend on time to time which United rarely did since 2004. We have done it for the first time in years and all of a sudden we are loosing our soul? I hated loosing Danny and still wish he was here but will you start him in every game as a center forward when you have Wayne, RVP and Falcao? Definitely not as rest of them are superior players AT THIS STAGE.
Lous Van Gaal is known for trusting youth over experience over the years. He’s the one who introduced players like Xavi, Iniesta and Seedorf to the world. There is hardly anyone in the world with better eye for a talent. This season Lingard, Blackett and Michael Keane have already played their first games in the league. Recce James regularly featured first team on US tour and one thing which is not widely reported abut Danny’s departure is James Wilson was ahead of him in pecking order. Evans and Fletch are already first team players. Yes, it is going to be tougher for a young player to break in through first team but all the talks of loosing our identity are total nonsense. If players are good, they will definitely get their chance.
At the end of Class of 92, Gary Neville says something very sensible and at the same time something very realistic
“You always hope and think that things will happen again but will there ever be a time where six lads who grew up from the age of 12-13, come through and win the treble having supported the club? I am not sure. I’m not sure if it can happen again.”
Well, you never know. We will soon find out. But with Van Gaal as manager, I’m certain that tradition of putting faith in youth will continue. Man United is far more than just a club. It is a way of life. Morals and belief that Sir Matt Busby instilled run very deeply through the club. And long may it continue!
We’ll never die!