Fergie's loan stars repay his interest
Alex Ferguson feels Manchester United have been handed a trickier start to the season than defending champions have a right to expect, with an opening game away from home and then Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea all visiting Old Trafford in the space of a month.
He is not though complaining about getting the three big London sides out of the way early and believes his players have already demonstrated they are ready to get off to a flier.
"I'm very pleased with the way pre-season has gone," the Manchester United manager said before today's trip to West Brom, an away game on a Sunday being a far cry from the 3.0pm Saturday start with which the traditionalist in Ferguson believes champions ought to kick off a new campaign.
"The great benefit of bringing in a few new young players is that they bring their enthusiasm and hunger into training. The training sessions have been fantastic and I always say that what you see in training comes through in the way you play in games. You could see that quite clearly at Wembley last week. I know it was only the Community Shield but Manchester City weren't as fit as we were, they didn't have the same intensity. I'm not saying we can keep that up all season, but when you start with a hard run of games, as we do, you have to make sure you are as well prepared as possible. The fitness of the players at the moment is excellent."
Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck, both returning from loan, were among the United newcomers who impressed at Wembley, and Ferguson believes he has another young player of rich promise in 18-year-old Paul Pogba, a goalscoring French midfielder who has been compared with a young Patrick Vieira.
"That's just because of his height and build," Ferguson said dismissively. "You don't want to be putting the lad under that sort of pressure yet, but he's got all the equipment alright. He's strong and athletic and he's almost ready to be considered. We are just trying to work on his distribution. He has been playing a short passing game and we think he could do with a bit more range. We will be giving him opportunities this season because if you don't use good players you end up losing them. We can't hold him back, and wouldn't want to do anyway."
Unlike Cleverley and Welbeck, Pogba will not be sent out on loan to gain experience elsewhere. "There's no need to do that in this case, he's still learning here," Ferguson said. "We sent out Cleverley, for instance, because of his physique. He was making slower progress and needed games for his development and confidence, but we were always going to bring him back.
"From our point of view the loan system works when the end result is a better player, as is the case with Cleverley. You need games, and because reserve football is not what it used to be, you now have to look at getting them with someone else.
"In the old days there might have been a stigma about being sent out on loan, a player would naturally be disappointed because he thought it meant he wasn't good enough to play here, but now players can see it might work in their favour, you can sell it to them more easily. As long as they know they will get games they will see the point, and I don't think there is any doubt that Cleverley and Welbeck have benefited from going out and coming back again.
"The only thing we don't like is loaning out players to clubs who then don't use them. That has happened once or twice and everyone finds it disappointing."
Sunday Indo Sport