Date:24th July 2010 at 5:40pm
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Is United’s latest group of youngsters ready to replicate the fledglings..?

Lee Price questions whether United’s current crop of emerging players are ready for the big time……


There has been a lot of talk about the young-looking nature of Manchester United’s squad for the coming season.

The double capture of Chris Smalling (20) and Javier Hernandez (22) for a combined fee of around £20million has set the tone for Sir Alex Ferguson’s future transfer market tactics, as we no longer possess the financial muscle to mix it with the big boys.

With homegrown prospects such as Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck earning deserved plaudits during the American tour and the likes of Gabriel Obertan, Ritchie De Laet, the Da Silva twins, Kiko Macheda and Corry Evans all involved too, many feel Fergie is presiding over another group of ‘fledglings’.

While I too feel that it is a promising group of players, I’m seeking to calm the euphoria surrounding the batch of talented teens and tweens.

All of them – and I leave no exceptions here – need first team football to aid their development. Playing second-fiddle will not bring them on.

Look at the emergence of Cleverley as a prime case study: loan spells at Leicester and, particularly, Watford over the last 18 months have catapulted him to the forefront of national attention – despite never playing for United in a competitive tie.

The 50 first-team games he picked up while out on loan shouldn’t be under estimated. Cleverley turns 21 next month and has all the attributes to fill Paul Scholes’ shoes when he eventually retires.

With Scholesy confirming that he’ll play for at least one more season, Cleverley may as well seek another spell away from Old Trafford – particularly if it is in the top flight.

Newcastle have been linked and, if they can offer the Basingstoke-born starlet regular game time, he’d benefit from the experience.

The same goes for the host of young talent I listed above.

With the exception of Rafael, Smalling and Hernandez, none are in line for starting positions. None of them are first under-studys, though Fabio and Obertan may quarrel with that suggestion.

Fergie recently said that Macheda would not be loaned out, but I don’t understand this – he has Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and Hernandez ahead of him. He’s fifth-choice (providing Welbeck is loaned out), surely we can afford to let him develop elsewhere?

And if there is an extreme crisis where we need to call on a fifth striker for a game or two, then dip into the Under-18 squad – I’m thinking Joshua King specifically here – for those couple of games rather than waste another season for Macheda.

Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson have shown that United are continuing to bring through talented young players, capable of establishing themselves in the first team – but both of those spent significant periods out on loan.

Going to Preston proved the catalyst for David Beckham’s United career. I hope our current pool of young talent gets the opportunity to develop in a similar way.

Lee Price edits Football-Previews and genuinely believes Dimitar Berbatov can have an impact this season…