Given the negativity that surrounded the exits of Ravel Morrison, Paul Pogba and, so it seems, Zeki Fryers, you’d be mistaken for thinking that our youth system was in absolute disarray, with our star teenagers leaving left, right and centre to find an easier life somewhere else. That’s only part of the story. Looking at it from another angle altogether, you could say that we’ve got rid of the prima donnas who are playing for their wallets instead of their careers and the youngsters that remain are a far better bed in the long term.
The performances of our youngsters against AmaZulu last night, especially Jesse Lingard and Robbie Brady, seemed to support this viewpoint, and late cameos from Davide Pretrucci and Ryan Tunicliffe contributed too. Lingard has had to cope with comparisons to Xavi after a Danny Welbeck interview back in February, but did nothing to dampen the expectation with a sharp and composed performance in the middle of the park before, understandably, tiring later on.
Would the rebellious Ravel Morrison have put the same kind of effort in against a side that is, even by South African standards, middle-of-the-road at best? I don’t think he could even have been trusted to travel, let alone play to any kind of decent level.
Brady’s use at left-back was interesting. There is a growing trend for players to be converted from passable wingers to full backs and enjoy huge success in that position. Take a look at Fabio Coentrao and Jordi Alba for the headline examples of players converted whilst into their careers, and Ashley Cole as one who was converted at a relatively young age. Comments by Fergie suggest that this is the way that his career is going, and he’s half as good as any of those players, then it would be a great boost to the club.
That’s without even mentioning the dynamite-booted Tyler Blackett, a hugely athletic left-back who’s only recently signed his first pro contract with the club. There’s an argument to be made that signing Leighton Baines could stifle the development of one or both of these kids, to our eventual detriment.
Scott Wootton was solid if unspectacular at the back and, whilst he’ll definitely make it in the professional game, I’m not convinced that it will be at Manchester United. For every David Beckham we produce there’s a Luke Chadwick, performing solidly down the leagues year in, year out, and I fear that this in the bracket into which Wootton will fall.
On top of this lot, Larnell Cole, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Tom Cleverley aren’t even on tour.
So, much to be optimistic about. Has Fergie been holding off signing a big-name midfielder because he knows that, in Pretrucci, Lingard and Tunicliffe we already have at least one youngster at the club that will make the grade? Only time will tell of course, but those Xavi comparisons don’t look too wide of the mark after all.