Manchester United Squad Players Who Deserve a Run in the 1st Team
Sir Alex Ferguson hasn't lost his belief in bringing young players through to the first team. Unfortunately, the greater competition in the Premier League recently has meant too many matches where he has had to play or retain his better players to get a result.
Saturday's match against Wigan was a case in point. If United had been 4-0 up at half time we probably would have seen Powell on earlier and Cleverly who needs game time.
In the event, Sir Alex was on the verge of bringing on Van Persie, Valencia and Cleverly, but changed after the third goal went in.
Paul Pogba left last season complaining that he had been promised chances in the First Team that never materialised. Zeki Fryers may well have left for similar reasons. Josh King has already said that he will look elsewhere unless he gets chances.
In his case I wouldn't bother. Yes he has some ability and pace, but is too selfish. When you are an established striker you are expected to be selfish but out of the Academy for a while now, King needs to understand that it is about playing in a colleague who is better placed.
Anyhow, he has too many young players ahead of him. Macheda has never had the breaks (although he has not fulfilled the promise he showed when scoring against Villa as a 17-year-old).
Will Keane was apparently not being sent on loan this year and would have got several chances if he hadn't got injured. John Cofie looks a better bet than Josh King. He will be a beast of a striker when he is fully developed.
Angelo Henriquez has a squad number and doesn't look to be going on loan. He has under age caps for Chile and has already been successful in their domestic league.
So, apart from loan spells, there may well be further players who will leave United in the next couple of years, either or both because they aren't good enough or they simply won't get the chances.
The stakes have never been higher for United. That means that home-produced players have to be very, very good, especially when United apparently now have an army of scouts in South America.
So incoming youngsters will raise the bar higher still, and it will be down to the Academy production line lads to see if they can compete.
Manchester United's Premier League Squad
The EPL squad rules have changed.
A team can have up to 42 players, including no more than 17 who are not home grown and 25 who are. United have 42 in their First Team squad. However, in addition, any number of under 21 players are eligible. So in total, United have no less than 80 players eligible for the Premier League.
United's Champions League squad can include 25 players plus any number of players under 21 registered with UEFA and who have played for the club for at least two years uninterrupted (the B-List). United's initial squad has 33 players. Others can be added for later matches.
The best place to start therefore is that squad. There are eight "B-List" players: Johnstone, Vermijl, Michael Keane, Cole, Lingard, Tunnicliffe, Macheda, King. It is a fair bet that Henriquez and Will Keane (when he's fit) will be added later.
So these squads give us some ideas about who is in Sir Alex's mind for the future. For instance, it is notable that Michael Keane gets the nod ahead of Scott Wootton for the Champions League and Tyler Blackett doesn't get a shot.
Established Players Needing a Run
Most of these players are now established in the Premier League, but four of those playing in the video still can't count on a regular game.
Welbeck and Cleverley are very close, as Smalling and Jones should be, when they are fully fit. The EPL and ECL are now marathons—not sprints—and you need every one of your top 25 players at some stage of the season.
The one player who looks most in need of a run right now, however, is Chicharito. He missed a penalty against Wigan before finally breaking his duck with a typical opportunist goal.
Surely he'll get some game time tonight, as will all the others if United go on a run in the Champions League and the two domestic Cups.
As Chicharito showed in preseason, it can take a while to get back your match sharpness when you've been out for a while.
And we haven't even mentioned Wayne Rooney...
How about that? You get your first team debut, score and the first player to congratulate you is one of the best in the world.
Even before Sir Alex suggested that he could be the next Paul Scholes, we had in July predicted a very bright future for Nick Powell.
The only question mark when you have so much talent so young is whether you can do it on the "big stage." While Powell confessed to being nervous on Saturday, once he had found his feet he didn't look out of place.
He has to get to know the idiosyncracies of his colleagues of course, but mark my words, by the end of this season Nick Powell will be adding to Sir Alex's headaches having established himself in the squad.
If you're still in doubt, just watch the video, starting with the sublime chipped pass he makes right at the beginning through to the last goal. He scores with both feet, from the edge of the box. No wonder Sir Alex likens him to Scholes.
For my money, if he learns to tackle and intercept well enough, he's surely the next Michael Carrick. He's barely 18 but already we're not missing Paul Pogba.
A steal at £2m plus add-ons. You'll be watching this lad for 15 years at Old Trafford and Tom Cleverley had better watch out.
Cleverley or Anderson
In last year's Community Shield, United were 2-0 down to City at half-time. On comes Tom Cleverley and the rest is history.
He and Anderson ran the show so well that they became the established pair in midfield. Then they both got injured and never really returned to form.
Cleverley has looked good for Team GB in the Olympics and, playing for England as well, is getting plenty of game time.
Despite those who think Sir Alex needs another midfielder, he now has rich resources in this area for the way he wants United to play. If he needs an out and out defensive midfield, Phil Jones can do that when he's fit.
With Nick Powell coming through and Ryan Tunnicliffe and Davide Petrucci banging on the door, unless Anderson comes in and starts producing miracles, he could be sold in January.
Cleverley will get the games he needs and become key to the future at United. But he ain't the new Paul Scholes.
Sam Johnstone is arguably a better goalkeeper than Ben Amos, so it will be interesting to see who gets the nod when Ben comes back off loan.
In the past, Ben has suggested that he is frustrated at playing third fiddle, while Sam seems pretty relaxed.
No doubt Sam will get a couple of games in the Cups and he won't let the side down.
Jack Butland seems to have soared ahead of him in the England pecking order and they may well be two and three to Joe Hart in future years.
When Amos's loan spell ends, my bet is that he will want to go and Sam will remain, but unless there are injuries to United's international keepers, its going to be a long wait.
Marnick Vermijl or Luke Giverin
Marnick Vermijl is a cultured right back who did well on tour. He never looks flustered and can play further up the field.
Suffice to say that he is the reason United let Ritchie De Laet go after reflecting for so long.
Pushing behind him is Luke Giverin, who can play at either full back position. Sir Alex likes flexibility, so Luke will probably get a contract, because he can also play upfield. With Buttner now established behind Evra and Fabio to come back, there won't be opportunities on the left any time soon.
Both are talented, but of the two, Vermijl is more likely to get a run, especially if Rafael is injured or loses form.
Michael Keane or Scott Wootton
Scott Wootton has been highly rated ever since he was signed from Liverpool in 2007. He's now 21 and will be wondering when he's going to get his chance.
If United draw non-League opposition in the FA Cup, he might get a game alongside Michael Keane, who is only 19.
Of the two, Michael seems like the better long term bet.
Both of these are good enough to climb into the Squad when Vidic and Ferdinand retire and they will have plenty of competition because United have several other good young centre backs.
Freddie Veseli joined from City but didn't stand out in the preseason tour. He looks solid but unspectacular.
Michael Keane is twin brother of Will and also has a knack of scoring goals. They probably decided in the back garden as kids who was going to be defence and who attack.
Michael also has the advantage of being able to play anywhere across the back line, so its only a matter of time before he gets a run. If United sew up their Champions League Group earlier, he'll definitely get at least one game.
In his press conference yesterday, Sir Alex hoped he could keep Vidic, Ferdinand and Evans fit until Jones and Smalling return.
Although he resorted to Michael Carrick against Everton, surely if the situation repeated itself against weaker opposition, Michael will get an early chance.
As an accomplished England U19, he will settle very easily at the highest level and score the occasional goal. We don't get many from the current centre backs.
Which Young Striker?
What a wretched time to have a long-term injury.
Will Keane was assured of a place in the first team squad this season until he got injured at the back end of last.
So imagine what he thought as Sir Alex signed first Robin Van Persie and then Angelo Henriquez.
Will and his brother Michael were born in Manchester. Neither is going to do a "Paul Pogba." Both have chosen England nationality rather than Irish and will surely feature for their country in years to come.
Will reminds me of a young Dendis Bergkamp. He is intelligent, can score with either foot or head and invariably hits the target.
In three years time he will be an established United striker, after van Persie has gone and Rooney has dropped into midfield.
He won't get any games this season because Sir Alex wants him back fully fit, but be sure that Angelo Hemriquez will, unless he's sent out on loan.
Of the other two budding strikers, Sir Alex must either give Macheda a run or let him go. Maybe he'll get his chance before Henriquez, either in the ECL or the Cups. Unless he shows he's back to the form of three years ago, he'll go as well although he wants to stay and take his chance.
Josh King looks likely to emulate his former colleagues, Pogba and Fryers. He has already been on loan in Germany and will generate interest there or in Norway. I don't see him as a fixture at United.
Larnell Cole or Jesse Lingard
United were concerned last season as to whether Jesse Lingard was too frail for the Premier League. Since then he has grown and bulked up and now looks strong enough to take on the challenges ahead of him.
Like Larnell Cole, he can play on the wing or through the middle.
Both will get a chance this season, even if its only one match. Lingard is the better long-term bet. He has previously reminded me of a young Ryan Giggs.
He has a great shot, pace and passes well. He is improving his judgement, especially as to when to pass or shoot.
Larnell Cole has undoubted ability, but if he only gets one chance he has to show all his talent and that he is made for the highest level of football, otherwise surely Lingard is ahead of him.
Tunnicliffe or Brady
Is Robbie Brady another Darron Gibson?
He scored one and made two goals in Ireland's recent match against Oman. His manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, has said he needs first team matches to get a regular Irish berth.
Sadly he probably won't get them.
He looked surprisingly good towards the end of last season, but on tour he was tried at left back and looked out of his depth.
He is not a like for like with Ryan Tunnicliffe, but Ryan can do anything Robbie can. In addition, Ryan is a package that nobody else has at Old Trafford.
He is the nearest to a young Bryan Robson or Roy Keane. He is tigerish in the tackle, to the point of risking bookings; passes and shoots well; and has a good engine.
If Sir Alex thinks he needs a defensive midfielder in his locker, Ryan may get a long-term contract and will undoubtedly get chances.
Brady? I'm not so sure.
The Wild Card: Adrian Januzaj
This kid was first spotted by United doing keepy-uppies on the pitch at Standard Liege.
Of course that's not enough, but he's highly gifted and is already a regular for the Under 21s.
He also played in the friendly match against Aberdeen that saw Darren Fletcher's return.
He's still only 16. If you're good enough, you're old enough. He didn't look remotely out of place and played competently in midfield.
Watch this lad. He may get a game or two in "dead rubbers" if he's lucky.
The Young Pretenders
There are plenty more young players ready to grab an opportunity if others fall by the wayside.
While few if any of these will get a chance before next season, there has probably never been so much talent coming through at one time.
That's probably just as well, because the Under 18s don't look too impressive at the moment, so the fringe part of the squad for the future will probably have to be made up largely from this year's "Prom Class."
Of the under age players, the other two that have caught my eye are Jack Barmby and Young Player of the Year Mats Daehli.
Jack Barmby will surely follow his Dad, Nicky into an England jersey in the next few years. He is a very talented No. 10.
But there are plenty of other players in the Under 21s this year who would surely merit from being given a run. Sadly, however, some may never get it:
Davide Petrucci, Sean McGinty, Tyler Blackett, Freddie Veseli, Tom Thorpe, Reese Brown (Wes's brother), Michele Fornasier, Charly Ekangemene, Giovanni Van Velzen, John Cofie and Tom Lawrence will surely all end up playing in the Premier League, but will it be at United?