Are United on the Brink of another Golden Generation?

Everyone knows the amazing story of United’s 1992 FA Youth Cup winning team. The team which consisted of six players that became full internationals for their respective countries. The more important figure, in my opinion, is that ten of the starting XI of that team went on to represent United in the first team. Not all of them made it in the first team, but they all got their shot (bar one). Roll on nineteen years and the United Academy stand on the brink of another FA Youth Cup final, this time against a tough Sheffield United side. On the way to the final, United have taken down two of the toughest teams in the country in Liverpool and Chelsea, last years champions. Comparisons to the infamous team of  ’92 started almost as soon as Liverpool had been dispatched from the competition. So are we really on the brink of another golden generation?

Well Gary Neville certainly thinks so. Whilst commentating on the second leg of the Chelsea tie for MUTV, G-Nev stated that this was the best youth team he has seen during his time at Old Trafford. Not bad from someone who has always coveted youth football during his days as a player. Personally I believe that with a little bit of luck, this group of players could produce three or four players who have long-term careers at Old Trafford. I also believe that the majority of the them will go on to have long-term careers in football, maybe not at Old Trafford, but certainly elsewhere.

The player that stands out most for me is Paul Pogba. The lad looks like a man amongst boys in the majority of games I have seen him play in this season. He is solid on the ball and never looks like he is going to lose it, even when teams double up on him. He has natural ability and has drawn many comparisons to Patrick Veira back in his homeland. Barring major injury, major personal problems or a desire to move back to France, Pogba should make the first team in the very near future. The other standout for me is Ravel Morrison. Much has already been said about this insanely talented teenager and our very own CartelMike said it best in his piece about Pogba and Morrison. If the lad can control his private life and realise that his gift should be utilised rather than squandered, he will surely be a major player in years to come. The final player I believe could make it is Ryan Tunnicliffe. This combative midfielder is the perfect foil to Pogba’s calm, natural game. Tunnicliffe reminds me of a cross between Bryan Robson and Roy Keane, he can tackle, he can pass, he can shoot and he has the engine of a pedigree race horse. If he continues to develop then I see no reason why the United midfield pairing in four or five years won’t read Pogba and Tunnicliffe.

There are other players who I believe could make it with the help of lady luck. There is flying Dutch winger, Gyliano Van Velzen, who like most Ajax academy youngsters, has incredible technique; Strikers Will Keane and John Cofie, who have both proven they have an eye for goal; Captain and centre back Tom Thorpe, who has shown composure and leadership skills all season; Keeper Sam Johnstone, who at 18 years old and 6ft 4in, is an imposing and talented goalie; and finally fullback and twin brother of Will, Michael Keane, a decent defender and good crosser of the ball. If they get the right loan moves, continue to develop and get the sprinkling of luck that every talented youth needs, I don’t see why they can’t make it either.

Of course, no one can be certain if the talent of youth can progress into what is needed to be a professional footballer at a club like Manchester United. This is of course partly down to the player taking the right opportunities, partly down to luck with injuries and partly down to the manager having the faith to give them a chance. With Fergie, we know if the talent is there they will get their shot. Will our next manager think in the same way or will they focus more on buying established players? Hopefully they will know enough about the history of the club and give the youth at the club the same chances they have gotten throughout history. The one thing you can predict though is that this is certainly our best chance at producing a team for the future we have seen since that fabled class of 1992.

About Steve Ferguson 886 Articles
Steve Ferguson had taken over & re-branded The Faithful MUFC website back in the summer of 2014 and is now the owner and editor of the site. Steve, from Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, is a 35-year-old life long Manchester United fan, travelling over the globe to see the Reds play. Steve has been lucky enough to be at both the 1999 and 2008 Champions League finals, seeing Manchester United lift the biggest trophy in the World, none more exciting than that faithful night in Barcelona in 99. The website is a blog, but also hopes to deliver the latest Manchester United news from around the internet too, linked up with our growing twitter account which is @TheFaithfulMUFC, give it a follow as we will follow you back as soon as we can.


  1. Mmmmm – I would have to say that out of the ones Red Nev has mentioned, Tunnicliffe has something else – HE IS A WINNER. Others who would die in attempt to win every game rather than lose are Joe Dudgeon and Robbie Brady – both have the hardest tackles in reserve team football, real tough tackling but also fair tackling. So watch out for these lads – all have the winning mentality more than any of the others!

  2. You say Pogba should “make the first team in the very near future” – totally disagree. If you watch the Reserves regularly you’ll see he often goes missing in Reserve games. Until his performances in the Reserves match his performances in the U18s he shouldn’t be involved in the first team.

    I think in general there is a mass over-hyping of our youngsters. Yes, they are good. However everyone is expecting so much so soon. It is the best collective group since ’92 but that doesn’t mean they’ll all go the same way.

    The Pogba bit though is typical of over-hyping. Fans in general watch a couple of FAYC games and decide he’s the next best thing and should be involved in the first team. His game has a fair few flaws he has to work on. His positioning isn’t good nor is his tracking of opponents. He relies too much on his skill to get himself out of trouble too. He’s still growing and broadening. His stamina needs work, it’s not good enough. Of the three – Pogba, Tunnicliffe and Morrison, I’d say Pogba has most to work on.

  3. i thought i was in a time machine watching the young paul scholes pinging the ball about all over place,it was wonderful to see it ,but i was duped as it was a usurper by the name of olly norwood
    that was creating chance after chance for all and sundry.just ask paddy crerand.

  4. Oliver Norwood’s last two games are the only two good games he’s had this season. I will happily stick my neck on the line and say he has no chance of ‘making it’ at United. He’s not good enough simple. Cannot stand the “get him in the first team” stuff I’ve been reading on Twitter in the past 10 days because a bunch of people who don’t usually watch the Reserves have now taken an interest and happened to watch the two games he’s actually played well in. Not a chance for the lad.

  5. I disagree with Doron on Oliver Norwood. He’s going to be a decent player. Wonderful set piece delivery, good tackling, good vision and a good shot… He may not score a lot of goals, but I think the hype the likes of Pogba get means that a lot of fans don’t know him. If(rather when) he gets his chance, he’ll take it.

  6. Is it not as simple the youth policy through the ranks of the club, a levelling out of the money that owners are willing to spend(and new legislation) on ready made players,like Manchester City and Chelsea of recent,with varying degree’s of success.I think and agree, we have in the making a nucleus of a fantastic team for the future.Ryan Tunnicliffe is a pure box to box midfielder, whom in my opinion in the last year has bulked out even more,clearly through work in the gym,and natural filling out for a youngster.I particularly like Larnell Cole, for his trickery and subtle skill on the ball, an entertainer, while he is relatively light weight at 18,he has time, like the rest of the lads to fill out and blossom at United.
    I sincerely hope some of the players mentioned get the opportunity next season in the first team, to bring them on, and encourage them to keep working at the basic skills, as Ravel Morrison did bye getting on the field for a few minutes in the Carling cup, to recieve his reward for brilliant performances.
    Liverpool are adopting this self same policy of youth in purchasing young players whom they have identified or grown and given them a chance,to see if they have what it takes on the big stage.The likes of Raheem Sterling(16) John Flanagan(18),Jack Robinson(17),Jay Spearing(22),Jonjo Shelvey(19),Danny Wilson(19).
    If Liverpool can do it, United can do it better, give the lads a chance Sir Alex!

  7. I do watch reserve games regularly and I don’t think he’s as bad as you make out. I don’t mean he is ready for the first team now but I’d say we will see him within the next two seasons play a Carling Cup game or two.
    Plus I think you are a bit condesending in your comments Doron. You automatically assume that because I have wrote something you don’t agree with that I don’t watch the young lads or reserves on a regular basis and I am ‘knee-jerking’ my assesment . Not once have I said we will see them next season, but yes I do think that eventually they will make it. As I do say I think they will need to continue their development first.
    I think you are quite unfair with your comments on Pogba. Yes he has flaws, show me a kid at U18 level that doesn’t. But the fact is that development wise he is miles ahead of some of the others and it shows during U18 games as he is a handful.

  8. I to think Cole is a talent, however I worry that his size will be a factor. Maybe I should have added that to the article. Hopefully if he grows a bit and bulks up then he too is in with a shot.

  9. Cheers mate, yes he is classy.I should have said, thanks for sharing your knowledge as ever.Thats not condecending I hope. 😀
    Keep it United.

  10. Very good post that gives an insight into United’s future. From your article, we can see that the future’s bright, the future’s red.

    Well done and keep up the good work.

  11. CC within the next two seasons is pretty different from “make the first team in the very near future”.

    My point on Pogba is yes, he’s a brilliant U18 footballer but people in general are going a bit OTT on him. He has a long way still to go in his development. Despite being on SE, this piece had nothing to do with me – – I thought it summed up why we must be patient well – it addressed the sudden outpouring of Pogba love in particular well.

  12. Sorry pal but can’t see Norwood getting a chance. He’s been dreadful all year in the Reserves up until the last two games. Sam Hewson was better than him and Hewson is without a club having been released by Altrincham. Norwood is better than Alty but the fact no club was willing to take him on loan in Jan says a lot. In my opinion, it’s in his interests to move this summer so he can pursue first team football somewhere in the football league as soon as possible – it’s the best move for him ‘cos I can’t see any chance at United. Would love to be wrong on this one.

  13. I wouldn’t say it’s his size that’s the problem. He’s bulked up a lot this year and would be my U18 player of the season. Remember Scholes was tiny! Problem with Larnell is a confidence issue, he has so little self belief and is the shyest player I’ve ever come across. It’s nice that he’s expressing himself this year. Along with Ravel and Tunnicliffe, he’s made the step up to Reserve level comfortably when he’s played. Was particularly pleasing to see him play very well on the right wing against Herita Ilunga away at West Ham reserves – his size didn’t go against him then – he used his feet and pace to great affect. He also has beautiful balance and body swerve.

  14. It does look like very exciting times indeed with this current crop of youngsters, or are we getting ahead of ourselves?

    Can anyone give us a comparison to how Gibson, Evans and Cleverley were in the U18’s? Or would you say the likes of Pogba, Morrison, Tunnicliffe and Keane are streaks ahead?

  15. MadManc:

    I don’t want you thinking I’m getting on your back or attacking your opinion, you and me and anyone else is perfectly entitled to our opinion and if we find a platform to convey it and people take the time to read then I believe that their comments/replies should provoke discussion and that’s what I am attempting to do.

    I wouldn’t appreciate the tone that Doron seems to be taking with you.

    Doron, my judgement and gut feeling is telling me that you believe in your own opinion and I think that’s great. However, telling people that they’re wrong and that their assessment of an individuals future potential is incorrect stinks of you thinking you’re the oracle on all things at Academy level. If you believe Pogba has a way to go before being good enough to play at first team level then that’s your assessment of his potential, criticising MadManc’s assessment is folly when it’s purely hypothetical anyway and only time will tell who was right…….time might even prove you both right.

    MadManc: There is one thing I’d like to add to your assessment and that’s the future of Gyliano Van Velzen. Before I give my opinion I want to make it clear that I’m fairly new to academy level football having watched it for just a couple of years or so. I’ve played and watched football for 30 years though so I’ve seen one or two players come and go with varying degrees of success at the highest level. Those years make me confident in my own assessment but it will always only ever be my opinion and anyone is free to disagree with it but I will take offence if someone purports to having an inferior opinion than me when that’s all it is……an opinion… assessment of future potential…..Doron.

    So, Gyliano Van Velzen. Personally I think he has no future at United or at the highest level of football. I don’t understand why United pesued the transfer of him. I’m aware that there are people who think otherwise and I respect that but my assessment is he won’t make it……I actually truly believe he is one of the least gifted players in the U18’s this season. I think he’s played in the big youth cup games exactly because he was a purchase and not a freebie found years ago locally. He won’t play the simple pass, he doesn’t work for the team, too many stepovers, gives the ball away and can’t hit a barn door from 2 yards away.

    That’s my somewhat honest and maybe harsh opinion but I stand by it and prepare to be proved right or wrong in the coming years. Despite that I totally respect your opinion and it’s great to meet someone else who’s obviously just as interested and keen to chat about the academy and share views. Hopefully Doron can start to share his assessments with you in such a way that doesn’t come across as condescending or disrespectful of our opinions……it’s a game of opinions and that’s why I love it.

    Cheers if you read this, I hope it doesn’t come across like I’m after an argument or to stir up any ill feeling, I’m really not, I just believe in SHARING views and having intelligent discussions and also learning from others in the process, NOT points-scoring off people who obviously have a similar passion to me.


  16. Interesting little debate here in the comments. Heres by two pennies worth

    Personally, no…no golden generation. Theres no doubt we have some fabulous young talent. But at this age you just cannot tell. All you can do is give a prediction.

    Im always interested in Dorons comments on the youth team as we all know via twitter hes quite clued up and a fan of the youth team. But I still think his general malaise over the future of Pogba is incorrect. No doubt Pogba is not ready for the first team. But he needs breaking in from here on. If he fails….then he goes. As with other players he will probably get a year at reserve level this season followed by a loan spell…its par for the course. I dont see why its a problem why some may get excited by him. He is a super raw talent and if developed correctly could become a top player. Tunnicliffe has also come a long way and has a chance. And we all know about Morrison.

    As with the first team, no ones opinion is right or wrong. Doron your passion is obvious but each to their own i say. Excellent article Peter. Good stuff. And what Scott said about Liverpool is right…i believe players can be blooded in the first team set up…look at how Rafael and Fabio developed so well (even tho not bona fide youth team players) Age is never a consideration…quality is however.

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