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Last Updated: Monday, 4 October, 2004, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Man Utd a pitch asset
By Paul Fletcher

Sir Alex Ferguson (left) unveils Wayne Rooney as a Manchester United player
Ferguson has bought some of the world's best young players
Manchester United is the subject of a takeover bid, with American tycoon Malcolm Glazer rumoured to be the man behind it.

If the takeover is successful, the new majority shareholder will inherit the world's richest club.

But he will also acquire a squad equipped to dominate once again on the pitch.

To the casual observer it may appear that United's crown has slipped over the last two seasons.

Arsenal have dominated the Premiership for the last 15 months and Chelsea, bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's vast wealth, remain unbeaten this season.

But United's wily manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been busy building a new team at Old Trafford with a view to long-term supremacy.

It is the third generation of sides assembled by Ferguson since his appointment in 1986 - and has the potential to be the finest.

The first comprised players such as Mark Hughes, Brian McClair, Paul Ince and Eric Cantona.

All were professionals capable of taking United a significant distance towards their goal of a first League title since 1967.

That quest finally ended when United won the Premiership in 1993 - but two years later Ferguson jettisoned many of the players who had brought silverware to the success-starved club and unleashed a generation brought through the ranks at Old Trafford.

Many saw it as a foolish move - after an opening day defeat at Aston Villa, Alan Hansen quipped that you cannot win anything with kids - but Ferguson had the last laugh.

Not only did the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville lead United to total domestic domination through the late 90s but also to European Cup glory in 1999.

Ferguson was knighted and United seemed poised to dominate in Europe for the foreseeable future.

It didn't happen and five years later Ferguson has built a new team boasting some of the world's best young players.

The Scot has made mistakes along the way - with the 28.1m signing of Argentine Juan Sebastian Veron the most striking example - but at a time when many have delighted in United's supposed decline, they now seem regenerated.

In Wayne Rooney, 18, and Cristiano Ronaldo, 19, Ferguson has acquired two of Europe's most exciting attacking talents - as both proved at Euro 2004.

Ronaldo, who arrived from Sporting Lisbon in August 2003, spent most of his first season dazzling with his feints and stepovers but rarely delivering a tangible final product.

Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Manchester United
Ronaldo is maturing at United
But his maturing performances are rapidly vindicating Ferguson's decision to discard Beckham and spend more than 12m on a player few in England had heard of.

Rooney is the most exciting English player since Paul Gascoigne and Ferguson has supplemented his squad with talented, young players.

Liam Miller from Celtic, 23, striker Alan Smith, also 23, and Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze, 26, all arrived at the club over the summer, while France international Louis Saha signed in the January transfer window.

The likes of Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea have come through the ranks to establish themselves in the first-team squad.

Then there are Rio Ferdinand and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Ferdinand, himself still only 25, is one of the world's finest central defenders and Van Nistelrooy one of Europe's most accomplished strikers.

All of these play for a manager who has a reputation as one of the best in the business for helping young players realise their potential.

They play in front of the largest home ground in the Premiership - Sunday's match with Middlesbrough saw a record 69,988 flood through the turnstiles - and are at a club with a culture of success.

United's mediocre form through the opening weeks of this season's Premiership - allied with strong starts from Arsenal and Chelsea - led to further discussion of United's fall from grace.

But United's early form masked the truth.

Ferguson's team limped into the season with injury and suspension problems that have now largely cleared.

And the reality is that anyone purchasing a majority holding in Manchester United will acquire a squad bristling with brilliant youngsters determined to succeed for some time to come.






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