Manchester United: The Red Devils' First XI Under-21 Side

Jonathan KooContributor IIISeptember 21, 2011

Manchester United: The Red Devils' First XI Under-21 Side

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    Manchester United have a history of bringing youngster's through to the first team, and creating legendary players in the process.  From Busby's Babes to Fergie's Fledglings, United have had some phenomenal young players.

    Recently, Fergie's youth players have been flying in both the Premier League and Carling Cup, so that got me thinking: What would United's First XI of Under-21 players look like.

    The formation is the classic 4-4-2, and only incorporates players born after September 21st, 1989.

Goalkeeper: David De Gea (20)

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    The young Spanish goalkeeper cost Sir Alex approximately £18 million in the summer transfer window.  After an initially rocky start, De Gea is starting to demonstrate why he is the first choice keeper for United, and looks to be for some time.

    The U-21 Spanish International has loads of experience for the young age of 20, including winning the 2011 European U-21 Championships, competing in La Liga, and winning the 2010-11 Europa League with Atletico Madrid.

LB: Fabio (21)

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    The young Brazilian was brought into United along with his twin brother Rafael, who at the time was considered the more talented youth.  However, Fabio has sprouted into a solid talent in his own right.

    While finding first-team opportunities are limited due to the presence of Patrice Evra, Fabio can most certainly learn for one of the best left-backs in the world and incorporate those skills into his game.

    Extremely impressive going forward, Fabio does have room for improvement in his defensive capabilities.

CB: Phil Jones (19)

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    It's hard to believe that Phil Jones is still only 19.  Purchased from Blackburn for £16 million, Jones could still shape up to be the steal of the season.  

    Jones has more than impressed at both centre-back and full-back this season.  He provides a physical presence, is not afraid to plunge forward, and has shown qualities of leadership on the field.

    Hailed as a direct replacement for Rio Ferdinand, Jones looks set to be a stalwart for both United and England for some time. 

CB: Chris Smalling (21)

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    Alongside Jones will be fellow rising star Chris Smalling.  

    Smalling has also been increasingly impressive this season in both the centre-back and full-back positions, and is a versatile, composed and calculated defender.  

    Against Chelsea, Smalling demonstrated that he is a threat going forward as well (although his goal was probably offsides).  

    For the United faithful, a transition from Vidic-Ferdinand to Jones-Smalling isn't quite so scary, and the England duo seem like a solid future pairing.

RB: Rafael (21)

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    Though currently out due to shoulder injury, Rafael has developed into a great talent and is expected to challenge for a starting full-ack spot upon his return.

    Much like his twin brother, Rafael is phenomenal going forward, and can create many problems for defenses, but he too must improve defensively.  

    Are the Da Silva twins reminiscent of the Neville brothers to anyone else? 

RM: Ravel Morrison (18)

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    Touted by many as the next reserve to make the jump to the first team, Ravel Morrison has impressed at all levels of the United youth side.

    Skillful and creative, Morrison is a versatile player, but is most comfortable on the wings.  If the youngster can fully control his attitude, Morrison could develop into a superb talent.  

    The Englishman has already made his senior debut, appearing in last year's Carling Cup match against Wolves, and is surely looking for more opportunities to impress.

CM: Danny Drinkwater (21)

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    Already capped at the Under-21 level for England, Danny Drinkwater is another impressive young talent in the central midfield.

    Drinkwater doesn't shy away from tackles, and yet is still skillful going forward.

    It seems as though Sir Alex is desperate for the youngster to gain first-team experience, as Drinkwater has spent the past few season on loan with a host of Championship clubs such as Cardiff, Watford, and now Barnsley.

    Expect the midfielder to be loaned out for some premier league experience before returning for the Red Devils (a la Tom Cleverley).

CM: Paul Pogba (18)

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    Hailed by many as the next Patrick Vieira, Paul Pogba has impressed in the United youth side since his 2009 move from Le Harve in France.

    At 6'1'', Pogba provides physicality as well as great vision, stamina and a powerful shot.  

    The Frenchman has represented his country at every youth level except U-21, but is surely expected to make that jump soon.

    Pogba certainly has impressed at United, as Sir Alex felt it was time to hand the youngster his senior debut against Leeds United on Tuesday. 

LM: Robert Brady (19)

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    Robert Brady is a powerful winger that, despite being injured for most of the 2009-10 reserve season, still managed to impress the United youth coaches thoroughly. 

    Well-balanced, paced and with an eye for goal, Brady has already established himself in the Ireland U-21 side.

    Much like Drinkwater, Brady needs exposure to first team football, and thus is on loan at Hull City until January.

FW: Danny Welbeck (20)

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    After a successful loan spell at Sunderland, Welbeck has returned to Manchester determined to prove his worth.

    After being offered the opportunity to start due to Hernandez's concussion, Welbeck certainly took his opportunity, scoring twice in his first three EPL starts for United (against Tottenham and Arsenal, I might add).

    Due to his solid performances, Welbeck has seemingly leaped over both Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen to establish himself as the third-choice striker for the Red Devils. 

FW: Federico Macheda (20)

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    After joining the United youth side from Lazio in 2007, Macheda has progressed well and has been part of the first team since 2009.

    Macheda has consistently shown an eye for goal, and most certainly impressed during this year's pre-season.

    Unfortunately, Macheda finds himself a victim of circumstance, as he lands behind Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck, Berbatov, and Owen in the striker's queue.

    Hopefully, with more first team opportunities, the Italian U-21 international will continue to develop into a stalwart forward.


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    Ben Amos, Goalkeeper (21)

    Ezekiel Fryers, Defender (19)

    Oliver Norwood, Midfielder (20)

    Ryan Tunnicliffe, Midfielder (18)

    Joshua King, Forward (19)

    Reece Brown, Defender (19)

    Larnell Cole, Midfield (18)