Tuesday 26 April 2016

United cooking up a recipe for success?

The young players in the United side inevitably garner much of the attention and why not when they play like they did on Saturday?

Matchwinner Anthony Martial has enjoyed a brilliant first season in England and was already a fans favourite before his late, late winner set up the final with Crystal Palace.

Even though he is still only 20, he was only the third youngest member of the Reds side with Tim Fosu-Mensah and Marcus Rashford also involved.

Sprinkling a senior side with kids barely out of their teens is one thing but there must be older and wiser heads around to steady the ship too.
The right blend of youth and experience is universally acknowledged as the recipe for success and it has been interesting to hear Fosu-Mensah consistently reference the assistance he receives from his elder colleagues.

Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini provided the know-how in the middle of the park and enabled the attacking trio to express themselves on the big stage.

Jesse Lingard may be a relative veteran at 23 but this is still his first season in the senior side in the top flight so he lacks experience and, on the other hand, Daley Blind is 26 but plays with a maturity far beyond his years.

When Palace provided the opposition in the 1990 final, there were no teenagers on show for Alex Ferguson's side.
Mark Robins, at 20, was the youngest Red involved when coming off the bench in the 3-3 draw but replay hero Lee Martin was the most youthful starter having turned 22 the previous February.

Better comparisons can be made with the 1995 and 1996 finals, when Sir Alex was starting to introduce some of his exciting homegrown products into his line-up.

Gary Neville and Nicky Butt started the 1-0 defeat to Everton in 1995, whilst Paul Scholes and an already established Ryan Giggs (21) came off the bench.
A year later, when Liverpool were beaten by the same scoreline, Phil Neville, David Beckham and Butt were in the XI with Gary Neville and Scholes as substitutes.

When Alan Hansen decreed that you win nothing with kids at the start of that season, he probably did have a point despite underestimating the vast potential of United's youth-team talent.

Eric Cantona was that side's leader and there was great experience, nous and character in the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Gary Pallister and Steve Bruce although the latter missed the 96 final.

If United are to lift the famous trophy for a 12th time next month, the youngsters and established stars will, once again, look to handle the big occasion and another test of nerve.

Enjoying such highs must only whet the appetite for further success as it did during SAF's glorious tenure.
None of United's current squad have won the cup with the Reds (Juan Mata did with Chelsea) so there will be great elation among those who have lost finals- the aforementioned trio of Carrick, Rooney and Fellaini.

But it could also prove a spark for others to grow in stature and form part of an exciting new team being built by Louis van Gaal. 

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