There’s been talk of Karim Benzema coming in for Tevez for Franck Ribery replacing Cristiano Ronaldo, which has been exciting news for some reds, yet bad news for others. We all have different ideas on what would be the best move for our team.
But how about a move that would keep within the traditions of our great club?
Andrei Kanchelskis left United in the summer of 1995 on the back of disappointing season which saw us miss out on the title by one point (our goal difference was superior to Blackburn’s) and lose 1-0 in the FA Cup final to Everton. We were painfully close to achieving the Double for the second year running.
The fact that Paul Ince and Mark Hughes also left meant that surely United had to spend and replenish the team. Ferguson opted to put his faith in the youngsters though and we are all very familiar with this story.
Before the 1995/1996 season, David Beckham had only made four league appearances and played a total of eleven games in all competitions (mostly League Cup) for Manchester United, but he was seen as the man (or boy) to replace Kanchelskis. Darren Anderton and Marc Overmars (who was still at Ajax) had been linked with the club but their deals never materialised.
United lost the opening game of that season 3-1, which sparked the wise Alan YSB Hansen’s comments about what you will or won’t win with kids. Whilst the scoreline and media reaction are well famed, it’s not that often that our goalscorer’s name that day is mentioned. It was of course David Beckham who grabbed our only goal of the game, with Paul Scholes, who used to play up front back then, and Brian McClair unable to find the back of the net. Beckham had just turned 20 a few months earlier and it was probably fairly disappointing that it would have been inappropriate of him to celebrate his first league goal for his boyhood club with much enthusiasm. It was a consolation goal on a day they all knew they were going to get ripped apart; first by the manager, then by the media.
From what I recall, and my memory is pretty sketchy, Beckham went on to have an alright career after that, no? I believe United went on to win the Double that season, with Becks making 40 appearances for us. The season after that we won the league and he played in 49 games. The season after he played in 50 games. The season after we won the Treble and he played in 55 games, having just turned 24-years-old days before lifting the European Cup in Barcelona.
Now, I’m not for one moment saying we’ll have a repeat of the ‘Fergie Fledgings’, where players of the quality those young lads had all manage to break through in to the first team once. It was fucking fantastic when it happened and they had a great leader in Cantona, as well as the experience of Bruce, Pallister, Irwin etc. to guide them through. Everything was timed to perfection and I don’t imagine those kind of things can happen twice in one lifetime.
However, I am saying it’s time for us to really give our youth a crack at things again. Football has moved on from 1995 and you can’t afford to throw in a load of young kids and hope they prove themselves to be up to it. You simply cannot afford the time we had back then, when we lost 6 matches, only won 25, but still went on to win the league by 4 points. But you can afford to have one or two young lads on the sidelines, ready to take their opportunity when it is given to them.
I’m talking about Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck who should be more than capable of filling the gap Tevez’s possible departure might leave us with.
Had these lads only been doing the business with the Reserves, I think we would be right to be cautious. However, these lads have done it on the big stage, playing with the first team, which means I think they’re certainly ready to be tested more this season.
Welbeck scored 3 goals in 8 starts for United last season, and very few of those starts were for the full 90 minutes. Macheda scored just two goals for United, although both of them were winning goals in the Premiership, earning United four points more than we would have done had he not scored. Given that we won the Premiership by four points with a worse goal difference than the second placed team, I don’t need to go much further in explaining how much of an impact he had on our season!
They probably won’t be good enough to start with, they might not even be good enough at the end of the season, or maybe even ever, but how will we know unless we give them a proper go?
Beckham went from being loaned out to Preston NE one season, to playing 40 games for United’s first team the next. It’s a big jump and players with the right quality are capable of making it. We’ve seen plenty of youngsters come through the ranks, had a go, failed, and be sold off. But Welbeck and Macheda have already given us reason to think they’re worth backing. They’re not just talented players from the youth team, rather players who’ve managed to show how capable they are during the fleeting opportunities they’ve been given to impress.
Berbatov and Rooney would obviously be our starting players and if Ronaldo is around next season I imagine he will be playing a more central role like we saw towards the end of last season in particular. That gives us three options. If they’re injured/suspended, then time to bring on the youth.
If they’re not good enough, then not buying a replacement for Tevez, and therefore back-up for the starting two strikers, could mean we don’t win the league. That would be bitterly disappointing, particularly if Liverpool are the ones to get their grubby mits on our trophy. However, I strongly believe sometimes you have to take risks like that. Our club has taken risks on young players for decades and after struggling to produce top quality talent for some time, surely we should be grabbing the opportunity to allow Macheda and/or Welbeck to make it with both hands.
There aren’t too many 19-year-olds scoring goals like this on their debut. Let alone for Manchester United in front of the Stretford End. There aren’t too many 17-year-olds marking their debut with a goal like this, particularly in front of the Stretford End, playing for United.
So, it’s time to be brave. “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough” said the great Sir Matt. It’s time to give Welbeck and Macheda the chance to prove that is the case for them.