United's young guns: bad news for the rest

Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder could be on his way to Old Trafford before the transfer window closes.-AP

If Manchester United's ritual slaying of Tottenham at Old Trafford earlier this fortnight was anything to go by then the rest of English football should be scared. Very scared. By Frank Malley.

Not because it was one of the great English Premier League performances. It wasn't. Yes, it was clinical. It was full of sweat and industry. It contained the 149th goal of Wayne Rooney's Old Trafford career and saw striker Danny Welbeck announce himself as a natural goal-poacher at the highest level.

Yet it was the maturity and intelligence of United's performance which will have been so perturbing for their closest rivals.

The crucial statistic was that, following injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, Sir Alex Ferguson fielded the second-youngest United side in Premier League history, with an average age of 23 years and one month.

As such, it was a starting line-up which, barring the sublime talents of Rooney, contained no fancy big-name stars. Not in the league of Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo, all players who have brought glitter to United's glorious past.

That is why the rest should be worried and why Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, in particular, should take note.

For years now Wenger has been talking up his kids. He has been purring at their promise and, to be fair, delighting the neutrals with their flair.

Yet Arsenal have gone six years without winning a trophy. Increasingly, they have become a team with youth on their side but one lacking balance and directness.

Attractive football is important to Ferguson too. It is part of the late Sir Matt Busby's legacy at Old Trafford. But it is not everything. Beauty and brilliance without baubles is not Ferguson's way.

Winning comes first for Ferguson. His genius lies in his ability as he hurtles towards 70 to communicate his passion and his enduring modernity to players half a century his junior.

It is why he delighted in the performance of 20-year-old Welbeck and admitted that with seven strikers all pushing for selection: “It's going to be a right problem for me.”

Are the kids, players such as Welbeck, 19-year-old Phil Jones, 20-year-old David de Gea and 22-year-old Tom Cleverley, if required, good enough to mix it with the best of Barcelona at the business end of the UEFA Champions League. It is doubtful. It is why stories persist that Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder could be on his way to Old Trafford before the transfer window closes.

Sneijder would bring that touch of creativity which was lost the moment Paul Scholes decided to hang up his boots. Of course, Giggs will do an honest job for one more season but it is asking too much of 37-year-old legs to deliver the biggest prizes.

In 27-year-old Sneijder, the player of last summer's World Cup in many eyes, Ferguson might just find the shining midfield star he lacks to service his surfeit of goal-scoring talent. If the reports are right he could be the last piece in Ferguson's puzzle. A touch of stylish experience to balance the green energy in United's young legs.

It would be a signing to strike terror into the rest.

Nasri dazzles

Samir Nasri wasted no time ingratiating himself with the home fans following his protracted move from Arsenal to Manchester City.

“Arsenal have good fans but not that passionate since they moved from Highbury to the Emirates,” Nasri told Manchester City TV.

“I remember when we (Arsenal) played against City, when we lost 3-0, the crowd was amazing. That is what I want. When you play football it is for a good atmosphere.”

Smart man Nasri. Getting the crowd on side is one of the essential components for success in modern football.

Just so long as he realises that his words have ensured he will not be able to think for the passion in his ears when he returns with City to the Emirates Stadium in April.

Moyes' problem

Everton's excellent manager David Moyes may have no money to spend but he is the envy of many Premier League managers.

The reason? A 17-year-old midfielder in Ross Barkley, who has been called up to the England Under-21 squad and who promises to be one of the shining lights of the next decade.

Unfortunately for Moyes there is a problem. A big problem. Keeping him.

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