Are Manchester United moving on from their esteemed youth tradition?
When the news came of Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure from Old Trafford after 27 years in 2013, many were sceptical as to whether success could be maintained and rich traditions continued, but Arsene Wenger believes the club has changed.
The Arsenal boss, never shy to cause a stir among rival clubs, recently claimed that Manchester United have altered their outlook as a whole, relying on financial power in the transfer market, and now overlooking youth.
“We want to continue to combine stronger financial resources with faith in our philosophy and policy,” Wenger stated, outlining his approach to the transfer market (9/2 with Coral to win Premier League).
“That means we want to continue to give chances to young players and build the players from inside our club with our culture.
“Afterwards, if we can buy the exceptional players, we can compete today. But that will not be the basis of our policy.”
The Red Devils have been completely transformed this summer, under demanding Dutchman Louis van Gaal, having overseen the £80m-captures of Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay.
“Most of the clubs who have been successful are clubs who have done that well. You can take Barcelona or Man Utd, who had a generation and built their success on players who came from within,” continued Wenger.
“These are our values and it is our DNA and it’s important we keep that. With United’s success they have created huge financial resources and today there is no patience for them to continue what they did.
“They have the financial resources to go with a different policy. And they do not have available players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham inside the club.”
United have long been an advocate of blooding youth into their first-team, an endearing tradition of the club, but have the Red Devils began to change their outlook and, more dauntingly for fans, is Wenger right?
With many high-profile stars arriving this summer, and Van Gaal teasing that there is more still to come, young Old Trafford prospects are finding it harder than ever to cement their position in the senior set-up regularly.
United possess the remarkable run of having named homegrown players in their matchday squads in over 3,650 games, an incredible record which stretches back to October 1937.
Last term, Van Gaal thrusted the likes of Paddy McNair, Jesse Lingard and Tyler Blackett into his starting line-up, and continued to hand appearances to youth starlets such as James Wilson.
Although, the Red Devils boss was both limited in defensive options and short on in-form forwards in his maiden campaign, but nevertheless, Old Trafford’s young guns grabbed their chance, and are continuing to do so on pre-season this summer (5/1 to win title).
Andreas Pereira earlier netted in a pre-season friendly against San Jose Earthquakes, while highly-regarded Belgium wideman Adnan Januzaj has played a part in the season preparations, with McNair also starring.
For every world class star stepping in, it leaves the door open for youthful departures, as Saidy Janko recently moved to Celtic, Michael Keane switched to Burnley, former youth skipper Tom Thorpe signed for Rotherham and Ben Amos arrived at Bolton.
Pre-season, though, isn’t always a direct path into the first-team for the upcoming campaign, with vast competition for places possibly set to force the current crop of United youngsters to seek loans or restrict them to impact outings from the bench.
As Van Gaal prepares to embark on a hopeful campaign, in which he will aim to challenge on all fronts, with his new recruits on board and more to follow suit, Old Trafford may be limited to just short but sweet flashes of its promising youth this season.