Fergie enthused by next generation
Published 19/08/2011 | 14:21
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is relishing watching his latest crop of young guns blaze a new trail at Old Trafford.
It was Alan Hansen who once famously remarked of Ferguson's 1995/96 side that "you never win anything with kids", only for United to claim the double that year.
The team beaten 3-1 by Aston Villa on the opening day 16 years ago that prompted Hansen's quote was, on average, a year older than the one that finished Sunday's 2-1 season-opening victory at West Brom.
With the likes of Gary Neville and Paul Scholes now retired, it is a sign of the times that youth is again at the forefront at United as Ferguson masterminds the latest rejuvenation of his squad.
"We were always aware we had players who were coming to the end of their careers. That has been on the horizon for us for quite a few years," said Ferguson.
"We knew it was going to happen, you don't want it to, but it does and there's nothing you can do about it. Age catches up with us all.
"So we've replaced the players who have left us, and we've still players at the club in their 30s, which is a lot of experience.
"At some point when the young players may hit a pocket there will be enough experience to augment the challenge we're after this year.
"It is a very young team at the moment, but it's one full of energy and of great ability, and I'm enjoying watching them."
It is likely there will be only one player over 30 in the starting line-up for Monday's visit of Spurs, with Patrice Evra returning at left-back after missing the game at The Hawthorns with an ankle injury.
With skipper Nemanja Vidic sidelined for up to five weeks with a calf injury and fellow centre-back Rio Ferdinand almost certainly out with a hamstring problem, youth will most evidently be on show in defence.
Aside from Evra, ahead of 20-year-old goalkeeper David De Gea, new signing Phil Jones and Jonny Evans, 19 and 23 respectively, line up at the heart, with 21-year-old Chris Smalling in at right-back.
"I'm not worried about the young players filling in at the back," added Ferguson.
"Evans has ample experience, of course, and has been at the club since he was 12. He's played plenty of first-team games.
"Jones has the experience of playing for Blackburn last season in the Barclays Premier League.
"I thought he and Smalling were the stars for the England Under-21s in the summer, and Chris had a fantastic first season with us, and he's continued his progress this year.
"So I have absolutely no issues whatsoever with playing those guys."
Ferdinand's injury is not as bad as first feared, although Vidic will be out for longer than originally expected.
Ferdinand has not been definitively ruled out against Spurs, but it is more likely he will return for the match at home to Arsenal next weekend.
It means he will also be available for England's Euro 2012 double- header against Bulgaria and Wales next month, as well as the start of United's latest Champions League quest.
Darren Fletcher (virus), Javier Hernandez (concussion) and Antonio Valencia (ankle) are all closing in on a return, but are not yet ready, whilst Michael Owen is out with a back problem.