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Why youth is the key for Sir Alex

Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson has seen his young stars thrive

Few clubs can demonstrate the value of a good youth system better than Manchester United.

Under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, the likes of Paul Scholes, David Beckham, and Ryan Giggs have helped make United one of the richest and most successful clubs in the world.

But debate rages as to whether Man Utd's current crop are made of the same stuff.

So what exactly does Ferguson look for in a young player and are there any obstacles for a teenager at Old Trafford? In an interview conducted earlier in the season, Fergie revealed all.


I never have a problem playing a young player in the first team - if he is good enough then he can play.

The best players I've had, have had the strongest character and a good attitude to play.

It's all about a balance.

A player with the right attitude may be able to have a good career, but at the top level you need more than players who like winning.

They obviously need the talent as well.

It is actually something you can identify with young people at about 12. If they have both these attributes then you know you've got a chance.

Ryan Giggs
Ryan Giggs joined as a trainee in 1990

Although it can be spotted, you can't really see the true potential of a player until they are 15 or 16.

But all managers have done it. We've seen young players at 9, 10 or 11 and thought they are the new somebody or other, but it doesn't always work out that way.

Their real talent only shines through when they start playing against more physical players.

When the player grows and they retain their skill and technique you can start to see the player emerging.

And then you get an idea of their maturity and potential to be a professional.


There are no footballing obstacles for a player wanting to make the grade in the game.

Obstacles will lie within the person themselves.

At Man United there are huge resources and a great path for any young player to pursue their dream.

There are doctors, nutritionists, paediatricians - all available to enable a young player to make it to the very top.

Sir Alex Ferguson factfile
Full name: Alexander Chapman Ferguson
Born: 31 Dec, 1941
Birthplace: Govan, Glasgow
Date joined United: 7 Nov 1986
First manager job: East Stirling 1974

It is that period from the ages 16 to 19 that determines the future of many young players. These three years will see if they progress physically - this is the most important.

It will also determine if they have the attitude to be a winner and how their technique develops.

At Old Trafford we have an academy system where we give them a scholarship between 16 to 19 - and you hope by that time we would see the potential being developed and fulfilled.

A decision on giving them a professional contract is then made; sadly it doesn't always work out for a player.

At the ages of 20 or 21 if they aren't in the first team there is a danger their progression may slow down.

Everybody obviously wants first team football.

So the club and I would then make decisions to make sure that any players not achieving this would still have a career in the game.


It's easy to think my Man United team in the early 1990s was a one-off.

That sort of success with young players doesn't happen that often.

Paul Scholes
Paul Scholes won 65 England caps

Apart from the late 1950s with Matt Busby's youngsters.

Back then six or seven players were brought through over a period and that's exactly what happened in 92/93.

The two I was certain would succeed were Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.

Ryan Giggs was a year in front of the rest. I thought that if he didn't make it we may as well quit.

Butt and Scholes had the strength and character and it was actually Butt who first broke into the first team. He was better physically and the rest just developed later.

They were all a very talented group and it was a great period.

But we can't think that sort of thing is never going to happen again. The truth is every time you bring a boy to Old Trafford you have to think they have a chance.



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