Saturday 20 January 2018

Fergie's kids must not fear shadow of former heroes

Mark Ogden

Manchester United's emerging youngsters have been warned they must embrace comparisons to the club's 'golden generation' of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers if they are to realise the potential displayed to destructive effect during Monday's 3-0 dismantling of Tottenham.

Despite fielding his second-youngest Premier League starting XI against Spurs -- the average age of the team was 23.1 years -- Alex Ferguson saw the likes of Phil Jones (19), Danny Welbeck (20), Chris Smalling (21) and Tom Cleverley (22) play pivotal roles in the victory against Harry Redknapp's team.

The performance of United's youngsters evoked memories of the youthful exuberance of the club's feted Class of '92, who were thrust into the first-team picture in 1995 following the controversial sales of Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis and Paul Ince.

Former United defender Gary Pallister, who played alongside the 'golden generation' in the mid-1990s, insists that Ferguson's latest young talents are capable of emulating the successes of their illustrious predecessors.

"It's impossible to avoid comparisons between this group of lads and the kids I played alongside at United," said Pallister said.

"Like it or not, players like Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are going to be bracketed alongside the Class of '92, but that is part of the package and they will have to deal with it.

"Beckham, Butt, Scholes and the Nevilles had to live with the pressure of being compared to the Busby Babes and they thrived on it.

"Back in 1995, we saw Hughes, Kanchelskis and Ince leave the club and, although we all knew the kids were a talented bunch, the gut feeling among the senior pros was that it would be at least a couple of seasons before we won the title again.

"But they matured so quickly that we ended up winning the Double."

While Welbeck and Cleverley have been nurtured at Old Trafford since their early teens, Jones and Smalling have been recruited from Blackburn and Fulham respectively.

"The one who really stood out (against Spurs) was Jones," said Pallister, who watched Monday's game alongside Bryan Robson. "Robbo and I were just purring over him and the maturity of the kid.

"Playing at Old Trafford can be daunting, but he was unfazed and, at 19, it was so impressive to see him directing the play from the centre of defence. He bossed the ball, was strong in the tackle and made some terrific interceptions.

"It looked as though he had been playing for United all his life." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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