Will Tidey - Ferguson has done it again at Manchester United
Published: 25 Aug 2011 - 02:00:23
It's a remarkable thought that seven of Manchester United's starting XI against Tottenham weren't born when Sir Alex Ferguson walked into Old Trafford in November 1986.
The average age of Ferguson's team on Monday night was 23 years, 191 days - the second youngest he's put out in his nearly 25 years in the job. The only team younger were sent out against Hull on the last day of the 2008-09 season, and with nothing to lose.
This was an entirely different scenario. United's first home league game of the season, against a Tottenham who posed a genuine threat. Fair enough, Spurs hadn't won at Old Trafford since 1989, but those kind of records are made to broken. Moreover, Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale arrived having won games on their own for the London club.
Ferguson greeted the challenge with a fresh-faced team bristling with youthful ambition. Injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic forced his hand, but yet another new dawn at United has seen stalwarts like Wes Brown and John O'Shea jettisoned for a bold new generation.
United's spine said it all. David De Gea (20) in goal, Jonny Evans (23) and Phil Jones (19) in central defence, Anderson (23) and Tom Cleverley (22) in the middle of midfield and Danny Welbeck (20) up front. Wayne Rooney (25) was a wizened old-timer by comparison.
The result was a second-half performance that saw United pour all over Tottenham with an attacking relish every bit as tasty as that they showed against Manchester City in the Community Shield. Ferguson's team were positively irresistible in patches, boiling over with enthusiasm to get on the ball and making runs in every possible direction to stretch the opposition.
Jones was dominant, Cleverley even more so. Anderson showed an authority in midfield that suggests the Brazilian is still to reach his full potential. Welbeck was subdued for the first 60 minutes of the game, but so good for the final half an hour one United fan said he "looked like Pele out there".
For a United team we're barely acquainted with, it was quite the performance. The exuberance was to be expected, but the commanding nature with which they swept the visitors aside was the defining lesson to take away from Old Trafford.
I was at the game, and the mood amongst the fans was one of overflowing anticipation at what's to come. United fans who saw Fergie's Fledglings to the title in 1996 firmly believe their manager has done it all over again. It's hard to doubt that when you've caught a glimpse of his next generation in full flight.
- Life with Sir Alex, Will Tidey's book telling the story of Ferguson's 25 years at Manchester United is released on October 3rd. You can pre-order it now at Amazon.co.uk.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
- Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey
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