The second half of the FA Community Shield the Sunday before last offered a glimpse into the future of Manchester United. Incredibly at just 26 years of age, Ashley Young was United’s oldest player in a team that had an average age of just 22 by the time the game had finished.
At half time with United 2-0 down, Sir Alex Ferguson introduced Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley, three players who United fans could not really expect to turn round a two goal deficit.
What was apparent in the second half was as good an attacking display as we have seen in the last 12 months from United against top class opposition inspired by the fearlessness of youth and based on the attacking traditions that Manchester United have always adhered to.
Inspired by an attacking quartet of Ashley Young, Nani, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck United created numerous chances and played at a tempo that a more methodical and laboured City side couldn’t live with. United’s second goal was as good a team goal as we have seen at the new Wembley as City were ripped apart by United’s slick one touch passing and movement.
One player who shone for United during the second half was Cleverley. There comes a time in a young player’s career at Old Trafford when they simply have to stand up and deliver. This was Cleverley’s moment and he seized it.
In the past, quality young players such as Ben Foster have failed to take this opportunity as a series of errors at the beginning of the 2009/10 season effectively cost him his Old Trafford career and he soon found himself at Birmingham.
After impressing on United’s pre season tour to America, Cleverley knew that this was his opportunity to prove he was ready to play for United and stake his claim for a first team place. Cleverley’s performance in dominating a midfield which contained seasoned internationals like Gareth Barry and Nigel De Jong showed he will be ready when called on and he can handle the pressure and demands that come with being a Manchester United player.
There is no doubt that Cleverley along with Welbeck have benefitted hugely from their year-long loans at Wigan and Sunderland respectively and both have come back better players and are now ready to compete for first team places at Old Trafford.
It is unlikely that Jones, Chris Smalling, Cleverley, Welbeck and to an extent the Da Silva twins will be the first names on Sir Alex’s team sheet this season but Ferguson knows that he can trust them to perform when called upon.
As in the past, the likes of Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick and Park will be departing Old Trafford when Sir Alex deems the time is right and he knows he has another talented generation of players waiting to step up and take their place.
By Jonathan Hil-Dunt @jonathandunt
For those of you unaware of Jonathan, he’s a goalkeeper playing Semi-Professional football for Prestatyn in the Welsh Premier League and we hope his unique views as a player will come across well in his articles for WAFU.