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Reds can always use buyout clause

I know it's the silly season and that most of us are suffering from cabin fever due to the confinement imposed because a few bits of ice and snow have resulted in the kind of structural breakdown more commonly associated with a full-scale civil war.

But that is no excuse for outright lunacy, which is the best description of the recent flurry of speculation that Manchester United may in fact be up the creek without a paddle. The daftest suggestion is that because Darron Gibson, Danny Welbeck and Gabriel Obertan are unlikely ever to be mistaken for Best, Charlton and Law, United face a bleak future.

There is, of course, one crucial flaw in this line of reasoning. Hands up. Anyone? Anyone?

Exactly. Manchester United are not a Gaelic football team, even though the less-than-inspiring form of their young guns is being talked about as though the Red Devils were a county minor team whose failures presage similar setbacks at senior level.

In reality, should Gibson, Welbeck and Obertan prove unable to live up to the standard set by the current United team, they will be despatched to Middlesbrough or Bolton or some such outpost and Ferguson will, as the managers of big clubs do, buy his way to success.

After all, where was Rio Ferdinand at the age of 20? West Ham United. Where was the 20-year-old Nemanja Vidic? Red Star Belgrade. Wayne Rooney got his start at Everton, Patrice Evra came of age at Nice and Michael Carrick received the key of the door while he was at West Ham. It's probable that the players who will fill those impressive boots are not at Old Trafford at all but currently making their names in Serbia, Holland or London.

The continuing presence of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville tends to distort our picture of United by reminding us of the sublime generation of home-grown young players who Ferguson nurtured into the treble-winning 1999 side. But these days United's foundations are built on buying power in the transfer market rather than a youth policy, Jonny Evans and Darren Fletcher notwithstanding.

Suggesting that United are headed for hard times is a bit like suggesting that in a couple of years time Sean Quinn will be begging on the Ha'penny Bridge while Dermot Desmond busks for a living in the streets of Galway.

It's not completely impossible. But it's not very likely.

Sunday Independent