COS contributor Darren Plant discusses the lack of talent coming through the Old Trafford youth system.
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Manchester United’s second string scraped through to the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup with a 3-2 win over Wolves at Old Trafford – but it was hardly a performance to put the ‘concerned’ Wayne Rooney’s mind at rest.
Sure, there were glimpses of real raw potential in United’s display – Bebe was explosive. Chris Smalling was commanding for the first hour. Javier Hernandez ultimately decided the match with his last-gasp winner.
But are these players really who Sir Alex Ferguson sees as the future of Manchester United?
The manner in which Rooney portrayed his displeasure last week deserves to be criticised left, right and centre, but there’s no getting away from the fact that times have changed in the red half of Manchester.
Fifteen years ago, Ferguson unleashed the most impressive batch of United youth players in a generation that went on to create a legacy with countless Premier League titles.
But the days of producing players such as Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes are long gone.
Ferguson has been less cavalier in recent times in how he has introduced young talent into his first team squad, but when he has, it’s mainly players he has snapped up from other clubs.
That’s no different to other Premier League sides you may ask? But the difference from Manchester United and the rest of England’s elite is that they used to be re-known for the quality that progressed from their academy.
That’s not to say good players aren’t being developed. The likes of Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson and Federico Macheda are all capable of being regular Premier League players, but ‘Manchester United’ players? Not for me.
United will be in the market for a top-class goalkeeper, midfield playmaker and centre forward come the end of the season but it’s debatable whether Fergie’s funds will stretch that far to satisfy his outspoken star striker and really put the departure rumours to bed.
Wolves for their part played their part in what was your typical case of ’a game of two halves’.
Apart from a few foray’s forward from United wide-men Bebe and Gabriel Obertan, and Wolves’ Matt Jarvis, action in the opening 45 minutes was non-existent.
But Bebe’s fortuitous opening goal early in the second half changed all that, and brought a response from Wolves that indicates they have the quality and the desire to overcome a tricky start in the Premier League.
Jarvis’s did his England credentials no harm at all with the frequent ‘skinning’ of former ‘Three Lions’ internationals Wes Brown and Gary Neville and is becoming the Molineux club’s key player as the months tick by.
On the other side of the pitch, the returning Stephen Hunt showed little ‘ring-rust’ as he made his first start for Wolves after joining from Hull in the summer.
And after Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (a graduate from Manchester United’s academy) and Steven Fletcher combined impressively to trouble United’s back four in the second half, manager Mick McCarthy will be further assured that his side have the goals in them to rid the club of the ‘second season syndrome’ tag that will be handed to them if they continue near the foot of the table.