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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 12:33 GMT
Fergie's fresh fledglings
Gary Neville and David Beckham
Gary Neville and David Beckham: Two of the class of '92

Eight years ago, with Manchester United eliminated from the Champions League, Sir Alex Ferguson gave three of his young stars their European debuts.

In the team to face Galatasaray that night were three names that soon became first-team fixtures - David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville.

That trio, along with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville, formed the spine of United's 1992 FA Youth Cup winning side - Old Trafford's finest vintage of young talent since Busby's Babes.

Since 1994, however, the pipeline from youth team to first team has become clogged.

There comes a time when [young players] turn a corner and emerge to become great players
Sir Alex Ferguson
Despite on-field success (or should that be because of it?), Ferguson has been unsuccessful in his efforts to repeat the trick of producing homegrown superstars.

Highly-rated youngsters such as Luke Chadwick, John Curtis, David Healy and Ronnie Wallwork all failed to make the impact expected of them - of that quartet, only Chadwick remains at Old Trafford.

But perhaps now, for the first time since 1994, the right combination of opportunity and ability exists for United's young hopefuls.

With qualification for the second stage of Champions League football secured, Ferguson has taken an experimental side to Cyprus for Tuesday's match against Maccabi Haifa.

Speaking before his squad left, Ferguson said: "This is the first time [the young players] are going to get the opportunity, and it is up to them to seize it.

"There comes a time when they turn a corner and emerge to become great players."

But who are these would-be Beckhams?

Is Ferguson set to unearth another golden generation, or will the current crop follow their immediate predecessors to less demanding footballing outposts than Old Trafford?

We profile the young men United are counting on to become Fergie's second batch of fledglings.

Man Utd's Kieran Richardson
Richardson came off the bench vs Olympiakos
Kieran Richardson
DOB: 21 October 1984
Birthplace: Greenwich
Position: Midfielder

The London-born Richardson is the brightest of Ferguson's young stars and the most likely to make his first Champions League start on Tuesday.

A left-footed midfielder who runs at defenders, Richardson is already talked about as the next Giggs.

Mads Timm
DOB: 31 October 1984
Birthplace: Odense, Denmark
Position: Forward

The highly-rated Dane joined United in 2001 after impressing at a youth tournament in Portugal.

Another of Ferguson's favourites, Timm can also play in midfield.

Danny Pugh
DOB: 19 October 1982
Birthplace: Manchester
Position: Midfielder

The local-born Pugh joined the club in 1999.

His first-team debut came in the 5-2 win over Maccabi Haifa in September, and he played his first Premiership game against Spurs a few days later.

Man Utd's Daniel Nardiello
Much is expected of Nardiello at Old Trafford
Daniel Nardiello
DOB: 22 October 1982
Birthplace: Coventry
Position: Forward

A prolific scorer for the United youth team, Nardiello arrived at Old Trafford from Wolves.

The son of former Coventry City winger Donato Nardiello, the 20-year-old made his United debut in last season's 4-0 Worthington Cup defeat by Arsenal.

Mark Lynch
DOB: 2 September 1981
Birthplace: Manchester
Position: Defender

Lynch, who was loaned out to SPL side St Johnstone last season, is still waiting for his United debut.

Lee Roche
DOB: 28 October 1980
Birthplace: Bolton
Position: Defender

Another to make his first-team debut in last season's Worthington Cup defeat by Arsenal, Roche had previously been at Wrexham on loan.

Has been given a first-team squad number by Ferguson this season.

Can Man Utd still win the Premiership?



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