Manchester United: Is Old Trafford the Best Option for Young Players?

Yousuf HafudaContributor IIINovember 14, 2011

ROME - MAY 27: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Barcelona and Manchester United at the Stadio Olimpico on May 27, 2009 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Over the past few years, several young players have made their way to Manchester United. Although there have been numerous success stories, some players have not been so lucky.

Manchester has made a habit of producing young stars and is perceived to be a great option for emerging players. However, a look at their track record reveals a disconcerting fact. Many promising young stars simply do not make the cut at the often daunting stage known as Old Trafford.

The players who succeed often become superstars, with a plethora of success stories available for admiration.

So is Manchester United the best option for young players?

Considering the number of outcomes of young promising stars at the club, it may be argued that a definitive conclusion cannot be reached. How can one say whether Manchester United is indeed a prime destination for aspiring young soccer stars given the diversity in outcome?

To overcome this hurdle, one must see the world through the eyes of a young soccer star. One must imagine that they have the potential to make it on the world stage and are in the process of deciding which top team they wish to join. Only then can one understand, and subsequently make a sound decision regarding the effectiveness of United's youth program.

It seems that Manchester breeds an innumerable amount of success stories, while simultaneously producing several flops. At Old Trafford, it seems there are only two options, whereas at other clubs there is an in-between. This is an odd feature of the club and makes joining them an apparent lottery.

Those who succeed become world beaters, whereas those who falter—for any reason whatsoever—are sent packing and find themselves in the second division in Norway.

A fitting example of such a contrast can be found in the two cases of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bebe.

These were two relatively unknown players who were picked up by United at a young age. When purchased, both were at the center of speculation. There were postulations that both would transform into superstars, but that is where the similarity ends.

Such a contrast highlights the uncertainty in joining Manchester United. It explains why Manchester is the prime choice for aspiring young players, but is also a source of rejection amongst those more prudent.

Players like Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, George Best, Paul Scholes, Nani, Chicharito, Chris Smalling and several other stars all joined United at a young age and etched their respective names into the record books.

However, this is the list that players often look at when considering whether to join United. It is often a glance at this list that convinces them to do so.

Conversely, the much less heralded list also exists as a reminder that a spot on this team does not guarantee immediate stardom. Gabriel Obertan, Bebe, Eric Djemba-Djemba, Manucho and Liam Miller are just a few such names. A look at this list often warns potential United youngsters of the dangers in jumping to join the Red Devils.


The club also has a third unique list that does not exist for many clubs. This is a list of players who did not make the cut at United, but went to succeed elsewhere. These players include Diego Forlan, Giuseppe Rossi, Juan Sebastian Veron, Gerard Pique and others.

This list also exists as a reminder that players often don't make it, not because they are lacking in talent, but because the United system is so difficult to succeed in.

If we are to place ourselves in a player's position, which choice appears more lucrative? Certainly one would have to say that the decision depends on the circumstances at hand. A player must ponder whether they honestly think they have the ability to succeed at one of the most difficult sporting atmospheres in the world.

They must know themselves as well as the United system and make a decision accordingly. However, I happen to think that, as a youngster, the risk to reward ratio at United is daunting. Despite my love for the club, I have to say I would probably choose Arsenal over United, just as Aaron Ramsey did a few years ago.

In retrospect, this seems to have been a deft decision as Ramsey is now in the starting lineup at the Emirates. It is difficult to envision him being as successful in the merciless Manchester United system.

Nevertheless, it seems a recent youngster has opted for United. Andreas Pereira has just recently signed and certainly hopes he will one day find himself on the coveted list of United stars.

Unfortunately, I don't like his chances.