Bridging the gap to Barcelona is the agenda on all football fans nowadays. The current Barcelona team is certainly a one off, possibly the best footballing team in history and so it’s only natural that most fans of other clubs feel that their team is inadequate. So are Manchester United going about this so called “problem” in the correct way?
I believe that we are. One thing is guaranteed, there is no quick fix to bridge the gap. No amount of money in the world and no signings can instantly and consistently play on the kind of level that Barcelona did in their 2 recent Champions League winning campaigns. What Manchester United look to be doing is to focus on developing the younger players, and in my opinion this is the correct way of going about it.
We’ve seen examples of teams wanting a quick fix or getting to the top quickly by throwing incredibly stupid amounts of money signing players and paying their lofty wages. Chelsea have just recently employed their 7th manager in the Abramovich era; Andre Villas-Boas. Interestingly only two of their previous 6 managers have delivered a league title; Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti who recently got dismissed. In that same era (2003-2011) Abramovich has shelled out over £500million, an average of £65million per season for 8 seasons resulting in 3 league titles making them the second most successful team in the past 8 seasons behind Manchester United.
The other extreme of the scale is our close rivals Manchester City. They are the benchmark for the quote “money won’t buy you success” or at least they are right now. In the 4 seasons that they have been funded by a cash rich owner, Manchester City have spent around £450million, averaging around £112.5million per season yielding no league titles to date. Note this figure does not take into account the £54million that they have spent this summer.
So there you have it, two examples that simply spending massive amounts of money in the transfer market will not necessarily make you the best team in the world. Another example could be made of Real Madrid. They have been world reknowned for their big spending. In the 2009/10 season, Cristiano Ronaldo transferred to Real Madrid for a world record £80million and Kaka also joined for a figure around £54million. In the past 2 seasons they have spent around £270million and yet the gulf between the Madrid club and Barcelona has been highly noticable when they meet.
In stark contrast, in the past 5 seasons Manchester United have won 4 league titles and reached 3 Champions League finals winning one of them, arguably one of the most successful periods in the clubs history. In that same period Manchester United have gained a net £20million from dealings in the transfer market meaning we have actually made a profit from transfers in that time. Astonishing?
Most fans have been critical of Manchester United’s transfer dealings. I confess that at times I have been one of them however something that I do concur with is the fact that we buy players young. I concede that buying players young can sometimes be a risk. I suppose a good example of this is that we spent £7million on Bébé, a player who is yet to make an impact at Manchester United, however the benefits outweigh the risk.
We all saw the impact that Javier Hernandez made last season. Chris Smalling has also been a very good player for Manchester United since joining last summer. We also signed 19 year old Phil Jones this summer as well as 20 year old David De Gea and recalled youngsters Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Mame Diouf and Kiko Macheda from their loans last season. Furthermore, we are already in possession of the Da Silva twins who have broke through into the first team in recent seasons.
In addition to these players, we cannot forget that we have an FA Youth Cup winning team in which many have been tipped to break through into the first team in the coming years. Personally I feel that it is the development of these kinds of young players that is the most effective way to eventually bridge a gap to a team that has at times looked inhuman.
One thing that young players do better than any other kind is learn. These players can be taught the “Manchester United way.” They can be taught a philosophy of football. They can be taught loyalty. They can be shown all of the mental attributes needed to be a champion from the more experienced players who have been there and done that. They grow up playing the way that Manchester United play. This is why I believe youth should be, and is important.
Regardless of the score in the community shield yesterday, whether we won or lost, it was the performance that impressed me the most. For the majority of the second half yesterday, the team had an impressively young age of 22.2, yet still managed to dominate the game and keep possession. It was these players that turned the score around from a 2-0 defecit to our city rivals to win 3-2 in the second half. A superb comeback in typical Manchester United fashion. The future looks very encouraging.
Whatever happens for the rest of the summer, Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith in young players is the right way to go about improving the team and eventually catching up to this current Barcelona team who many people see as “the best team in history.”
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