“United don’t buy superstars, we make them.” This has been a popular statement around Old Trafford in recent times, especially with rivals Manchester City spending vast sums of money in order to become a footballing powerhouse. The idea is that Manchester United do not need to spend a lot of money in order to compete at the highest level because they have the ability to nurture youth players and turn them into Premier League superstars.
When Alex Ferguson’s career at Manchester United began, this case was true. During that time they successfully brought through influential players such as Lee Sharpe, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, and Paul Scholes. These players went on to lead their side to league and cup glory on a number of occasions and will go down as legends around Old Trafford.
Recently, however, this trend has simply not been the case. United has been spending vast sums of money on players year in, year out. If we look at their strongest eleven (when injury-free) from last season of De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Young, Giggs, Carrick, Rooney, and Welbeck, we discover that only two of these players are products of Manchester United’s youth academy.
Danny Welbeck has deservedly earned himself a place in Alex Ferguson’s plans, and has even picked up some England caps. It would be remiss of me, or anybody else for that matter, to call him a superstar just yet, but he certainly has a bright future ahead of him. The other player you’ll notice is Ryan Giggs, a man who made his first Manchester United appearance in 1991, so he can hardly be considered a recent success (I’m willing to ignore the fact that his youth career began at Man City).
The transfer fees of the other nine players listed come to approximately £154,000,000, which equates to an average of just over £17 million each. These facts do not lend themselves to the utopia of nurturement claimed by fans of the Red Devils. If we dig deeper into the squad, we will also come across payments of £30 million for Dimitar Berbatov, £20 million for Anderson, £20 million for Nani, and £10 million for Chris Smalling, to name just a few.
But what about the youth team? Well, they had an impressive FA Youth Cup win back in 2011, but since then they have seen some of their star players leave for greener pastures. Paul Pogba has gone to Juventus, Ravel Morrison has gone to West Ham, and Zeki Fryers has reportedly joined Tottenham after going missing for a while at the beginning of July, with Alex Ferguson saying, “We haven’t heard anything from Zeki Fryers, I don’t know what’s happening there but he’s not been in touch with the club.”
While there are still a few promising players at the club, such as Will Keane, Davide Petrucci, and Robbie Brady, the current situation sounds to me like a strange environment to make superstars.
Alex Ferguson is not an idiot, and he must be aware of these problems, but he does not appear to be trying to do much to deal with them. Perhaps it’s the cynic in me, but I believe that we should be looking towards his relationship with the Glazer family and questioning whether the Scot is putting his own interests before that of the club.