There has been no shortage of ‘experts’ in the media – not to mention rival fans envious of the Theatre of Dreams – who have spent much of the past two decades predicting the decline of Manchester United. The sudden retirement of the greatest manager in the history of British football and the subsequent appointment of David Moyes as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor gave the prophets of doom new hope.
With the new manager overseeing the Red Devils’ worst start to a League season since the Premiership was born in 1992, the vultures eagerly licked their lips. This United team is “too old”, Moyes “is out of his depth” and talisman “Wayne Rooney wants to leave Old Trafford” were all the media fuelled chit chat that was the talk of pubs and clubs around Britain and Radio Phone-Ins that feed off the soap opera that surround the beautiful game.
The chatter so convincing for some observers that the majority of non-Manchester United fans – and even a large percentage of the glory hunters who have never even been to Old Trafford – were starting to talk about the decline of the Empire as if it was a fait accompli.
But the delicious reality for United’s faithful worldwide army of followers is that the doom-mongers have once again got it all hopelessly wrong.
The honest truth is that Moyes has skilfully overcome a difficult start to what most people have taken for granted is the impossible job of following in the footseps of Sir Alex.
From the start Moyes has told anyone who would listen that Rooney was staying at Old Trafford and was looking fitter and in better shape than he done for years. With seven goals already for club and country this season Wazza is back to form approaching his best and in the countdown to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil he looks like a player rejuvenated and hungry for a new era of success.
As Ferguson’s “Chosen One” only a fool would write off the former Everton manager after six League matches. While the Reds may currently lie six points behind early pace-setters Arsenal, the gap behind neighbours Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur is just one win and pre-season favourites Chelsea are only four points ahead of Moyes men. There is still a long way to go and the sensational full debut of 18-year old Adnan Januzaj with a matchwinning double at Sunderland before the international break illustrates the real strength in depth of a squad that has been built for longevity.
Yes of course there are a number of experienced, older heads at the club in Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick and the unbelievable Ryan Giggs who hits 40 next month. But the truth is that United have an outstanding nucleus of young stars.
There have been youth players making the grade at Old Trafford in every season since the Busby Babes made United great. And the current blend of home grown talent and imported youngsters is no exception.
To suggest that United are a team in decline because the players are too old is the biggest misrepresentation of the truth by that unrelenting gang of media hatchet men, self-interested critics and so-called experts.
Moyes could easily send out a formidable United team where the veteran of the team is Wayne Rooney at the ripe old age of 27 and the average age is just 23. And I am not talking about fringe players, for example;
David de Gea – 22
Rafael da Silva – 23
Phil Jones – 21
Jonny Evans – 25
Chris Smalling – 23
Adnan Januzaj – 18
Tom Cleverley – 24
Luis Nani – 26
Danny Welbeck – 22
Javier Hernandez – 25
Wayne Rooney – 27
The following subs have an average age of 22:
Ben Amos – 23
Marouane Fallaini – 25
Wilfried Zaha – 20
Nick Powell – 19 (on loan at Wigan)
Jesse Lingard – 20 (on loan at Birmingham)
Michael Keane – 20
Will Keane – 20
Anderson – 25
Shinji Kagawa – 24
Fabio da Silva – 22
As for the old ones how many clubs in the Premier League would turn down the following, even if they do have an average age of 32 including the 39-year-old Giggs:
Robin van Persie – 30
Michael Carrick – 32
Ryan Giggs – 39
Antonio Valencia – 28
Ashley Young – 28
Patrice Evra – 32
Rio Ferdinand – 34
Nemanja Vidic – 32