Undoubtedly United are coming up to a period of massive change. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes aren’t getting any younger, Gary Neville and Edwin Van Der Sar have already announced their retirements and there are a few of the first team squad who seem to have played past their best days. Will United replace these players with big money, superstar signings? Probably not. Not because of the economic crisis that is the Glazers, but simply because that’s not the United way. United have always tried to buy established Premiership players, mixed in with youth brought through the ranks at Old Trafford. This season has seen Rafael become one of the best right-backs in the league. Chicharito surprised everyone with his goals so early into his United career, seemingly taking little to no time to settle into life at the Theatre of Dreams. And finally, Anderson has started to show that the ton of ability and promise that prompted Fergie to splash £18m for him wasn’t by accident, with his performances towards the end of last year being outstanding. The January transfer window has been and gone, with United only bringing in untested Danish International GK Anders Lindegaard. With a number of players out on loan and Reserve and Academy teams packed full of promising talent, who will make the step up to be United’s breakthrough star on the 2011/12 season?
Danny Welbeck: Welbeck has already made a handful of appearances for the United first team, and whilst not exactly setting the world on fire, his potential was evident from day one. This season he has come into his own, gaining valuable first team experience at Sunderland on a season long loan. So far, he has bagged six goals in the league and has been instrumental in Sunderlands form in late 2010. His performance against Chelsea left many pundits praising the young forward. There has been talk that Steve Bruce will be looking to try and tempt Sir Alex with parting with the young striker, especially as he allowed Darren Bent to leave the club this January. SAF has stated that Welbeck ‘will return’ to United after his loan, if this happens, it looks like he’ll get his chance next season.
Tom Cleverley: Young midfielder Tom Cleverley was so impressive last season at loan to Watford that SAF took him on the tour of the US in the summer. A string of impressive performances later, and many Reds drooled at what could possibly be. Could Tom be the spark in midfield many thought we had lost? Could he be the left sided player to replace Giggs as he can seemingly play all over midfield? SAF put paid to all that talk by loaning Cleverley out to Wigan in the summer. Again this move appears to be paying off with Tom getting Premiership experience and Roberto Martinez recently stating that his attitude for such a young player is fantastic. There was plenty of talk of Tom returning to United in January. However, Martinez managed to persuade Sir Alex to allow Tom to stay and maintain his regular first team experience. If he continues to improve at the rate he is currently, the question won’t be will he be playing on the first team next year, it’ll be how big a role will he play?
Gabriel Obertan: It would be fair to say that when United snapped up Obertan, many fans were curious to whom this young winger was. What we have learned so far is that he is a speedy wing wizard with obvious potential, but he remains very green. Injuries have slowed his development so far, but this season he has shown flashes of what he is capable of. He has also shown flashes of why he hasn’t already broken through. If United didn’t have Valencia injured and Park away on International duty in January, chances are Gabby may have had a short term loan deal. Currently he is standing on the edge of the cliff. If he kicks on then he has potential to be a very good player at Old Trafford. The only question mark is can he get the consistency needed to hold down a regular first team place? Or will he become a United ‘legend’ in the same bracket of David Bellion, Eric Djemba Djemba and Kleberson.
Bebe: One of Sir Alex’s most controversial signings, not helped by the fact he declared he was the first player he has ever signed who he hasn’t seen play. Bebe had barely played any professional football when we snapped him up this summer under recommendation of Carlos Queiroz. What we have seen so far is that he is a goalscoring Portuguese U21 international and he has an absolute mountain of potential. If anyone hasn’t seen a clip of his goal for United’s reserves against Wigan, I suggest you get on YouTube immediately after reading this article. He is certainly underdeveloped and it will take time for him to settle into the life of a professional at one of the biggest clubs in the world. Next year maybe too soon for him but he is undoubtedly a diamond in the rough.
Federico Macheda: Macheda burst onto the scene making one of the most impactful debuts of recent times. The young Italian looked to have already broken through as Fergie sent out Welbeck and Diouf on loan whilst keeping Kiko at OT. After a few uneventful performances, not helped by the fact he mostly played either out of position or up front alone, he was sent to Sampdoria on loan in January. Both the club and player have stated his wishes to return, but with the progress made by Danny Welbeck and arrival of a certain Mr Hernandez, it leaves many United fan’s wondering if we have seen the last of Macheda at Old Trafford. I certainly hope not as I believe that with a run of games, he could be a potent threat. Plus at 19 years of age he certainly has time on his side.