Manchester United 4, Liverpool 0: Paul Pogba Shines in the Class of 2011

Terry CarrollContributor IIIDecember 16, 2011

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: Paul Pogba of Manchester United in action during the FA Youth Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on April 20, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester United last night comfortably beat Liverpool.

Now before you wonder if this has any great significance, the two Reserve teams gave very important indicators for the future of each club.

Among the United players were Federicho Macheda, Paul Pogba and Darron Gibson. On show for Liverpool was their current rave starlet, Raheem Sterling.

This was an opportunity for both sides to see who can make the step up to their respective first teams in the next couple of years.

Frankly, the omens were far more positive for United than their red counterparts. Even allowing for the 25th minute sending off of Suso (justified, for kicking upwards towards Pogba's face from the ground), there was no comparison.

Apart from the portents for the future, this match was something of a throwback to the sixth round FA Youth Cup earlier this year, which United eventually won 3-2.

Liverpool had pace and ability but United were better organised. The only standouts from the other red team were the Spaniard Suso (before he went off) and Andre Wisdom, who saw his thunderbolt tipped onto the bar by Ben Amos.

United fielded a total of five of that squad and Liverpool eleven including substitutes. While, sadly, Ravel Morrison, the match-winner, was missing last night, 'wonderkid' Raheem Sterling played the whole match.

This gave us a chance to assess how good he is. Frankly, he is no better than Larnell Cole and Jesse Lingard who, on the night, looked to have far more to their game and were better all-round team players.

Yes, Sterling has pace and put a shift in for his team, but the two United lads are no slouches and Lingard scored.

Raheem Sterling, Liverpool
Raheem Sterling, LiverpoolClive Brunskill/Getty Images

The class of 2011

Following Manchester United's high-profile disasters against Crystal Palace and FC Basel, many people are looking to see whether Sir Alex's publicly stated faith in his younger players can replicate or even surpass the success of Fergie's Fledglings from 1995.

To be honest, the signs from this match were promising. Especially when you consider that neither Morrison nor Tunnicliffe were playing.

The team last night was:

Amos; Vermijly, Wootton, Michael Keane, Fryers; Macheda, Pogba, Gibson, Cole; William Keane, Diouf

Last summer, United were looking to sell Diouf and Gibson. That may be true in January, also. Macheda will almost certainly go to a European side on loan and there were plenty of foreign scouts at the match. Sadly, some may have been watching Pogba.

Although Liverpool played for 65 minutes with ten men and despite United having home advantage, this performance was entirely in keeping with the Manchester team's season so far.

Coach Warren Joyce was a leading contender for the Hull City manager's job last month and he is doing a fine job with the youngsters Paul McGuinness has passed on to him this year. They sat top of their Reserves league, even before the match.

So who shone last night?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05:  Federico Macheda of Manchester United in action during Paul Scholes' Testimonial Match between Manchester United and New York Cosmos at Old Trafford on August 5, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Get
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Not surprisingly, Pogba was a standout. People keep talking about the next Paul Scholes and this lad could be it. He has both a sublime pass and a thunderbolt in each foot and he is an excellent header also. He tackles far better than the ginger maestro.

He also has Scholes' ability to fashion something out of nothing as shown by a delightful chip over the defence that Will Keane should have converted and a rocket right foot shot that almost broke the goal post. He was deservedly man of the match.

MUTV ran an interview with him before the match and, despite the speculation, it was reassuring to hear him say he wanted to be a 'great player' and to get into the first team. Reading his face, there was no hint whatsoever of a different agenda.

Everyone is a prospect

Among the former youth players that is. Of the 'senior' players, Macheda is still unconvincing and it would not be a surprise to see him, Gibson and Diouf used as make-weights in the transfer market next month.

In Macheda's case, this is more likely to be a loan to a credible European team with a commitment to the regular football he never got at Sampdoria.

Sir Alex Ferguson insists that he is one of the best natural strikers at Old Trafford, but he has much to do to return to the form that saw him save United at Aston Villa last season.

Frankly, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Will Keane leapfrog him while he is away. He is also a two-footed striker who reads the game very well and has an impressive on-target strike rate.

He hit an impressive left-foot volley to score. He played for the England U21s when he was only 18 and resembles a young Denis Bergkamp.

William Keane
William KeaneLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

His twin brother Michael looks more impressive with each game. From a distance, you could mistake him for Jonny Evans. He has grown in stature even in the last nine months.

He is solid in defence and dangerous going forward. He scored an impressive volleyed goal last time out and set up two of last night's four with defence splitting passes, roaming from the back.

Destined for the first team

Among the others who are already listed in the first team squad at Old Trafford and could make their big breakthrough in 2012:

Ben Amos is destined to follow Anders Lindegaard as second choice at Old Trafford if he remains patient. He is solid and reliable; a better all-round keeper than Ben Foster (although the latter is a top shot-stopper);

Marnick Vermijl at right back. He looks mature and confident on the ball and scored an excellent goal last week.

Scott Wootton is highly rated at United. He came back early from Peterborough due to injury and will surely go out on loan again next month. He and Michael Keane can save United a lot of money when Vidic and Ferdinand retire;

Zeki Fryers has already made an impressive debut in the Premier League, together with a couple of faultless displays in the Carling Cup. Surely he and Fabio will be jousting to succeed Patrice Evra;

Zeki Fryers
Zeki FryersAlex Livesey/Getty Images

Larnell Cole and Jesse Lingard are desperate to succeed Ryan Giggs. Both are also lethal finishers. Lingard scored a clinical left footer. Cole will surely feature for the first team in the Europa League;

While Diouf scored two excellent finishes under pressure, it was the former Youth players who really caught the eye on the night. They have grown up together, they are friends and they pass instinctively to each other.

In fact, the only obvious differences from Fergie's Fledglings are: there is no David Beckham; but there are probably at least a dozen this time round compared to half that number in 1995.

For all those champing at the bit for January signings, Fergie's big challenge is to find room to give all this talent a chance.


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