Manchester United: A City Fan On Why Fergie's Fledglings Are A Fallacy

The media's attempts to create another golden age for Manchester United is coming unstuck. A young, inexperienced side in transition? Not true. They're just no longer a formidable force.
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The media's attempts to create another golden age for Manchester United is coming unstuck. A young, inexperienced side in transition? Not true. They're just no longer a formidable force.

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The media's attempts to create another golden age for Manchester United is coming unstuck. A young, inexperienced side in transition? Not true. They're just no longer a formidable force.

The first time I wrote about Manchester United for the Sabotage Times was during the summer. I received a death threat when I suggested Dutch schemer Wesley Sneijder would be better off joining City. Not one to immediately learn my lesson I then espoused that their young prospect Tom Cleverley was being over-promoted too soon into the England set-up solely based upon his recall to Old Trafford following a loan stint at Wigan. Again the abuse was unrelenting and vicious.

So I decided to give the club a swerve and concentrate on events elsewhere. It just wasn’t worth the hassle.

However the sheer scale of steaming apologist bullshit that has been built up around the club’s decline in recent weeks – as their limitations are finally exposed – by a media beholden to their millions of United supporting readers and viewers has forced me to once again ensure the wrath of the illiterate mud-slingers in the comments box.

Travelling back from the Bayern Munich game on Wednesday I heard one red after another call in to a radio station and regurgitate the media lies to excuse their Champion’s League exit. ‘We’re a young team’ was one; ‘a side in transition’ was another; all of them alluding to the media creation of ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’.

I’m sorry but who exactly are these ‘fledglings’? Is it experienced French full-back Patrice Evra and their first-choice centre-back pairing that night of Ferdinand and Vidic? All of whom are 30-plus. Was it Rooney and Young? Both of whom have countless seasons of top level football to their name. Was it 30-year old Park or Ryan Giggs who would be claiming his pension now and sucking Werther’s Originals were it not for the life-affirming dangerous elixir of banging his brother’s wife for many years?

The average age of United’s 25-man squad for this season is 25.2. City’s is 25.04.

The average age of the Manchester United team that succumbed to beatable Basle last week was 25.45 years. The average age of the City side that triumphed over one of the biggest clubs in Europe was 25.36. Perhaps they should be referred to hereon in as ‘Bobby’s Boys’? Of course, that would be farcical. Which only proves my point.

So were these stats just one-offs based upon team selection? Not a bit of it.

The average age of United’s 25-man squad for this season is 25.2. City’s is 25.04.

The blunt truth is that Manchester United are not a particularly young team at all – they just aren’t anywhere near as good as they used to be.

They miss Scholes dreadfully. They lack a midfield leader in the Keane mould. Indeed, completely contradicting the media portrayal of an inexperienced side adapting to the expectations of being Manchester United I would suggest there has been a bit of middle-aged spread around the waistline. Almost unheard of for an Alex Ferguson XI they’re starting to possess a soft centre with an engine room that often relies on an aging dud in Michael Carrick and a player in Darren Fletcher who hasn’t learnt to excel in twenty-seven years.

Until their failure to progress from an easy Champion’s League group however you would have struggled to read or hear about this. In fact the only outlet I’ve relied on to receive honest appraisal of United’s shortcomings has been in here through the superb analysis provided by Samuel Luckhurst. That’s not me being biased. His candid admissions on his beloved club being in decline have often put my blue-blinkered prose to shame. Elsewhere the media have been desperate – and I choose that word with considered lack of exaggeration – to formulate a fallacy of United being a swashbuckling team of pups in the Busby Babes model. They have done so in the same doomed vein as the NME trying to create a whole new scene around just a couple of half-decent bands. It’s like Shoegazing all over again and it is absolute and utter substance-free tosh.

Manchester City also have a young goalkeeper. He is England’s number one and has been outstanding this term as he was last. His age? Never mentioned.

But let’s play along and see what we find.

First off we can all-but discount Danny Wellbeck. He is a third-choice 21-year old striker at a Premier League club. Wow, you’ll really struggle to find many of them. At City we have Mario Balotelli who is of the same age. Whilst I concede that the eccentric Italian has offered us too many snippets of headline-grabbing gold to get hung up on his youth when was the last time his tender years was even mentioned? Whereas with Wellbeck ‘young’ is almost a prefix to his name. Also, crucially, Balotelli is sensationally good. United’s 21-year old is not.

We can also rule out – at this juncture at least – Tom Cleverley due to his absence through injury. An unfortunate omission but pertinent nonetheless. If he hasn’t participated how can he be factored in to United’s crisis?

This leaves us – as regular starters – with David De Gea, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.

Manchester City also have a young goalkeeper. He is England’s number one and has been outstanding this term as he was last. His age? Never mentioned.

The latter two of these ‘fledglings’ admittedly show considerable promise. They were bought at a combined cost of £27M from fellow Premier League clubs. Two big-money purchases hardly equates to an astonishing break-out from the youth system does it? Surely there has to be at least five for a media tag to be applied. Or am I thinking of serial killers?

The mythological media creation of ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ does the fantastical achievement of bringing through Beckham, Giggs, the Nevilles, Butt and Scholes a major disservice not to mention besmirch the legacy of the Busby Babes.

My dad is a lifelong red and my mum’s first schoolgirl crush was on Eddie Colman. She got his autograph at the training ground just two weeks before the Munich crash. I was brought up to revere those wondrous youngsters and even as a City fan I can admire the work of Eric Harrison when the last lot came through.

This current batch aren’t of the same ilk. In fact, they don’t even exist.

Manchester United are not a young side – their noisy neighbours are even outdoing them in that regard – and the only transition they’re facing is having to adapt to no longer being a formidable force.

Don’t believe the hype; it is written by Ferguson-fearing journalists with one eye on the multitude of red readers who will nod along to make themselves feel better and ignore the unpalatable truth.

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