As we all know, United is a keen developer of young, talented players. Our history is rich with great examples, of players that just brought their talent to Old Trafford, and they were then moulded into great players. Some came through the whole system (academy to the first team) such as Scholes, Charlton, etc, and some joined the first team squad directly where they were given chances and they become top players (such as Cristiano Ronaldo).
The influx of money, globalisation, and the 90 minute academy rule (a FA rule, introduced in 1998, which single-handedly crippled English football club academies), and led the academy of many clubs in England (including United) to flooding the academy with some of the best young talent available from around the world. Of course, in the past 26 years the main man overlooking the academy and development of each youngster at Old Trafford was Sir Alex Ferguson. But he is now gone. Made a Director of the club, but no longer is he the manager. The man appointed to not just lead the club to trophies and victories, but to also continue United’s commitment to the development of young talent, is David Moyes.
Moyes has already made it clear that he views the academy as a key feature of the club, and has assured the supporters of his commitment to making sure the academy is producing top class talent that can become fixtures of the first team squad, and will also be looking for top young talent from around the world for both the academy and first team. I have already mentioned in previous articles that Moyes is the best man for the job, especially when it comes to the success of the academy and United’s history of developing talented young players.
But, in the past 26 years those young players came to United not just because of the clubs traditions, facilities, and stature in world football. They came here because of the trust they had in Sir Alex Ferguson, and in it they knew there was a man that walked the talk. The talk that Sir Alex said when he joined the club in 1986, is very similar to the one that Moyes said when he got the job. I am sure Moyes will walk that talk, and i am sure Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Charlton, and the countless United supporters around the world will make sure that happens.
Moyes problem-attracting top youngsters
But the tricky part is how do we convince the young talented players to come to us. There are numerous rich clubs clubs now (such as Chelsea, City, PSG, etc) that too will focus on their academy in the near future, due to UEFA competition rules, FFP and EPL rules. So, United already do have a lot of competition when it comes to securing talents of young players that other top clubs academies covet and its likely to increase in the future. Moyes doesn’t have the reputation of Sir Alex. I wouldn’t be surprised if we struggle to snap up the youngsters we would normally have gotten when Sir Alex was in charge. This is something Moyes is going to have to build on. When you think of big managers, you would normally be able to think of some young players that they developed into great players, and it is these success stories that make the current and future generation of young players want to develop under and play for such managers. I don’t feel Moyes quite has that reputation. Note, the eagerness Thiago has in joining Bayern and Pep Guardiola, over United and Moyes, assuming we were seriously interested in him.
Sure, he has developed young talent and turned into success stories. But how many of them turned into world players that every young football fan in the world has heard of? How many of them are aspiring footballers, and how many of them have heard of those success stories? How many of them will be thinking “i trust Moyes above most/all other managers will turn me into a top footballer”? Again, i reckon not many. A club like United, does need someone committed to developing young players, but the club also needs him to be among the A list names of managers that young, talented player will want to play for and develop under. So, its important that walking the talk happens as fast as possible.
When we go through the list of talented, young players that Moyes could develop, we find quite a few names. But in order for them to develop into top players, they will need to play first team football, and this will help put their names, and by extension Moyes name as well (as their manager, or talent developer), into the minds of every talented young player that is choosing which top club to entrust his development with.
The 3 candidates to solve Moyes problem
The 3 obvious candidates out of the young players that could play some part in the first team this season, i feel, are Zaha, Januzaj and Lingard.
The tough part is, all 3 of them are attacking midfielders or wingers. That is an area we already have a lot of players in. Rooney and Kagawa for the CAM job, Valencia, Young and Nani for the wingers job. Assuming none of these first team players leave, and assuming there no attacking midfielders or wingers are bought, then there is space on the wings for one more player to get 10-20 games (sum of starts and substitute appearances), and maybe 10 or so games in the CAM department (mostly substitute appearances).
If that’s the case, then i can see Zaha getting the winger slot that is free, because not only is a natural winger, but also spent 15 million pounds on him and the fans will probably want to see such a player next season, especially given our history of having some of footballs finest wingers, someone like Zaha will be the one that most fans (out of the 3 names) will want to see on the wing next season. That leaves the few games open in the CAM role up for grabs, and arguably Januzaj and Lingard to fight for it. Lingard is the more experienced on the two, and i feel he is more ready that the Belgian. He seems physically stronger than him, and a little more mature when it comes to his decision making on the pitch. That is why i think Lingard will be given games at United, but then again Moyes might think he is at the stage where he needs many games, and might send him out on loan, so that might give the games to Januzaj instead. So, regarding those two, its completely depends on what Moyes wants to do, and if he wants to send one of the two on loan to another club. The only thing that most fans can be sure of is that Zaha will be given games on the wing this season, since he is the more experienced out of the trio, is a natural winger, and seems more ready that the other two, and he was arguably the most impressive player on United’s tour of Asia, but that is disputable since good cases can be made in favour of Januzaj or Lingard as well.
So, it’s likely next season that the one who will be showcasing Moyes skills to the world as a youth developer is going to be Zaha. I am pretty sure he is going to have a good season. He is so talented, and confident, that i just don’t see any reason why he wont have a good season. Commentators on live matches will go and on about how Zaha could become the new CR7 (which kids all over the world will listen to due to the global popularity of United and especially the league), and some of the credit for his good performances will be be placed of Moyes doorstep, which is a good thing for Moyes and United. This is going to be crucial if we are to attract the best young talent in the UK to our academy and first team. The FA rules (90 minute academy rule) has been successfully bypassed by the Premier League thanks to the EPPP rules. More on the EPPP and how this will effect the United academy is in the link below:
Fergie and Moyes tag team will take care of the problem
With a combination of Sir Alex and David Moyes, their contacts (scouts and agents) all around the country will maximise the benefits that could be extracted from this new rules (EPPP) governing the academy and development of young British talent. Successful development of Zaha into a top player will give Moyes a big name that he can use to attract the best young talents when he meets them and talks to their family.
But, we do have some foreign talents in the academy and first team squad. They were all brought in by Sir Alex, including one of the most impressive performers on the tour, Adnan Januzaj. These foreign players tend to have to overcome cultural differences and different football philosophies when they come to the England and join the United academy. So, its likely that Moyes is going to have to succeed in developing a foreign talent, so that he can show to the fans, and the next generation of upcoming young players all around the world, that he too can look after them and put them on the path to greatness. Which means he is probably going to have to succeed with someone who is foreign as well, like Januzaj, or Andreas Pereira.
Sir Alex will probably use his new role as a director to help get these young talented players from around the world. This was an area that Moyes would initially struggle in, but i am sure Sir Alex will lend a hand. His presence as a football legend and ambassador of the club would increase the clubs chances of landing any youngster we feel is good enough for United. Although i am a cynic and don’t feel Sir Alex would have a primary role in decision making in the board room (note, SAF hated twitter and immediately after he retired United moved into twitter, last EPL club to do so), the pragmatist in me feels that Moyes would lean on Sir Alex Ferguson’s experience and wealth of contacts, so that would give Fergie a route into influencing decisions and the future of the club.
Influx of money, globalisation, and FA’s 90 minutes rule forced the club to decrease scouting in the UK, and was the catalyst that made the club form a strong network or contact and scouts in certain regions, such as Europe and South America. The introduction of the EPPP rule, Sir Alex new role as a director and ambassador, along with Moyes own set of contacts, will increase scouting in the UK and probably bring through another British generation of talented young players such as the Class of 1992. But, the network of contacts built in other parts of the world will not be tossed away, because the financial benefits are too great and United has become a bigger global force now than it was is 1992 or 1998. So, Moyes, Ferguson, and United, will team up and not just continue, but also refine United’s tradition of developing talented young players and making the academy as well known around the world as the academy at La Masia (Barcelona).
I am sure Moyes will walk the talk, and do well when it comes to developing the young players and making our academy even better than it was before. But, i feel he might struggle to attract the best young talents since he doesn’t have a big, well known reputation all around the world, and especially in the younger generations mind, because most of them didn’t have a clue who he was until he become the United manager. I think he is going to need some early success stories, like Zaha, or Januzaj, or Pereira, etc. Sir Alex will help Moyes, and Moyes will ask for help, and both will form a tag team that all EPL clubs will envy, and sometime in the future could rival, maybe even trump, any continental club when it comes to securing the best youngsters.