The Potential of Manchester United’s Team
They may not be at their best right now, but the future of the current Manchester United team could be incredible.
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Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed his impending retirement on a number of occasions, saying that he will only leave Manchester United when it begins to affect his health, but the state of the team he leaves behind will definitely be a deciding factor.
United have always had a strong focus on youth development, but since “Fergie’s Fledglings” of the early 1990’s, John O’Shea and Wes Brown are the only players to really rise through the ranks at United to maintain a place in and around the first team. Until this season that is. With players like Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Fabio and Rafael Da Silva, David De Gea, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling all breaking through to the first team, and an array of talented prospects just waiting for their chance like Paul Pogba among others, United look as though they have a supply of players to last them for years to come.
After a summer of speculation about which central midfielder United would bring in, they didn’t, as Ferguson chose to stick with his current midfield and promote Tom Cleverley to the first team after a couple of successful loan spells at Watford and Wigan. They started this season playing absolutely breathtaking football with a first choice midfield partnership of Anderson and Cleverley who seemed to complement each other perfectly. After looking like they would run away with the league, a series of injuries to key players saw United maybe regretting the decision to hold back on investment in the summer.
Most of their missing players are now returning to fitness though, and Cleverley I’m sure will form an integral part in the rest of United’s season. The 22 year old appeared on the substitute’s bench at home to Liverpool, and then made his first start since October in United’s 2-0 win away to Ajax. He didn’t look like he had ever been away and brought a sense of purpose to United’s midfield in an otherwise lacklustre display from the Manchester side. As Carrick is often criticised for playing the “easy ball” (which I don’t agree with), Cleverley seems to always be looking to go forward, and his one-two’s with Rooney and Welbeck at the beginning of the season were mightily impressive. With Wilshere seemingly a doubt for Euro 2012, I’m sure there will be calls for the new England manager to include Cleverley in the England squad, providing he can get a significant amount of football under his belt between now and the end of the season.
Danny Welbeck burst onto the scene as he curled a beautiful effort into the top right corner on his Premier League debut against Stoke City. His career would only progress from there it seemed, but he failed to make a significant impact for a while following that. Truth be told he did cut a bit of a Bambi on ice type figure in his first few appearances. His first touch didn’t seem the best and he didn’t make as much of an impact as United fans will have first hoped. During his loan at Sunderland last season though, he matured physically and was a big part of their attack until he unfortunately got injured. This season he has continued his impressive form from last season, and built a partnership with Wayne Rooney that can only be good for United and England. He holds the ball up well and effectively closes down defenders, allowing Rooney to drop deep and be at his creative best.
United’s defence looks set for years to come also. There have been a few question marks over new goalkeeper David De Gea, but in the last few weeks he seems to have grown in confidence and stature. He had big gloves to fill replacing Edwin van der Sar, and it had to be expected that he would have a few shaky moments because of his age and the language difference, but he will only improve, and could be United’s keeper for the next decade or so.
United have plenty of options for a future back four in front of De Gea as well. Rafael and Fabio both look as though they are capable of first team action on a weekly basis already. They did seem somewhat of a liability regarding injuries and rash tackles, but their temperament and composure seem to have improved massively this season, and can both be relied on to step in whenever necessary.
The England under 21 centre back pairing of Jones and Smalling hasn’t been seen too often at United this season, since Jones arrived at the club, but that’s only because of Evans’ impressive form this year and Ferdinand’s vital experience. The fact of the matter is that these two will probably line up together for England and United for years to come. It’s hard to strike a good balance between central defenders but as Vidic and Ferdinand have done in recent seasons for United, these two look as though they complement each other perfectly. Jones plays the role of the ball winner, flying into tackles and making goal saving clearances, whereas Smalling cuts a more composed figure, providing the calm to balance Jones’ excitement.
Of course, United have players like Hernandez, Evans and Anderson all established players aged 24 or under amongst their ranks and a youth squad which were very impressive in winning the FA Youth Cup last year. Even if Manchester City do end up winning the Premier League this season, this is a very exciting time to be a Manchester United fan.