Manchester United’s academy manager Brian McClair assured fans today that the club knew what they were doing when they opted out of the cross-border NextGen Series.
The former United and Scotland striker said, “The NextGen Series just doesn’t fit in with what we’re doing at present. The whole thing just doesn’t fit in.
“If we’re looking at that age group, I think it’s the Under-19s with a few under-aged players but Barcelona were playing all their kids so they had a really young team.”
Some fans may be questioning why it is good enough for Barcelona but not for the Reds. However it must be noted that there is no reserve league for teams like Barcelona. Their “B” side competes against semi-professional and professional sides that have no age restrictions. Therefore their “kids” would need to find a different format to compete in.
McClair continued: “There is more benefit for our Reserves playing against Wigan Reserves for example as it’s better they play against men and experienced players rather than if they are up against 16- or 17-year-olds, irrespective of what the skill level is.
“It may be great for Barcelona and more beneficial to them but not to us. At present, it just doesn’t fit.”
Now this is where questions must be asked of United and their system. After all, Sir Alex Ferguson only keeps staff that buy into Manchester United and his own vision. Is this outdated?
Barcelona encourages skill and playing around teams from a young age. By playing against a team like Wigan, and facing only adults, there is no scope to breed confidence, develop flair, and nurture whole squads of youngsters. Instead it is long-ball football in the rain, trying to outmuscle veterans of English football.
The NextGen series also allows travel and experience of different cultures, if only in a soccer sense.
However, Ferguson and McClair are set in their ways. Who is to argue with that level of experience? It just means in-house standards have to be very high, and United have had that for as long as any can remember.