In Keane's footsteps: Gibson is United's latest hope tipped to fill Roy's boots

17 February 2009 03:31
It was perhaps symbolic that when Manchester United[LNB]'s Darron Gibson made his first start for the Republic of Ireland last October, it was at the expense of another former Old Trafford midfielder, Liam Miller.[LNB]For where the likes of Miller and a host of other young midfielders have failed in recent years at United, it appears Gibson may be about to succeed. [LNB]At 21, Gibson has announced his arrival in Sir Alex Ferguson's first-team squad this season with goals in FA Cup victories at Southampton and at Derby at the weekend.[LNB]'Darron Gibson did really well on Sunday,' said United manager Ferguson yesterday.[LNB]'He has got into the Carling Cup final team with that performance. He has played in every round, so he deserves it.'[LNB] Young Roy? Gibson made his United debut aged 21, Keane (below right) aged 22, but the Forest recruit had already commanded a British record transfer fee of £3.75m[LNB] A Wembley start against Tottenham[LNB]on March 1 will certainly excite Gibson but, at a time when the United midfield continues to evolve, the young Irishman will realise that much more significant prizes are available in the long term.[LNB]Ferguson has tried a good number of players as he has sought to solve the 'Roy Keane problem' in recent seasons. [LNB]The likes of Miller, Alan Smith, foreign signings Eric Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson were palpable failures as Ferguson sought a player to fill the hole left by his former captain, while the most recent recruit — £18million Owen Hargreaves — has seen his progress halted by knee problems.[LNB]Gibson, at the very least, would appear to have a chance. At 6ft 2in, he is, like Keane, a physically imposing figure with a thunderous shot and the fact that he was given a start in a relatively strong United team at Derby says much for his place in the pecking order at Old Trafford.[LNB]'People at Manchester United have a lot of faith in Darron,' said clubmate and international colleague John O'Shea. 'They have always believed in his ability and now people can see that.'[LNB]While young players from the neighbouring academy at Manchester City[LNB]have been given opportunities at tender ages, Gibson's football education came on loan, first at Royal Antwerp in Belgium and, last season, at Wolves in the Championship. [LNB]Indeed, had United not been so pro-active in their initial pursuit of the teenage Gibson, he may have joined a club from the second tier in the first place. [LNB]Gibson, born in Londonderry, revealed: 'United were actually the first club I said no to when I was a youngster. They asked me to come across and I said no because I was fed up of going here, there and everywhere for trials. [LNB]'There were agents phoning up the house all the time and my mum and dad were getting fed up.[LNB]'I had decided I would go either to Sunderland[LNB]or Leicester and nowhere else. But then one of the United scouts said I should really go over and play in a game on my birthday. They persuaded me so I went over and once I saw the place and met the people, I signed straight away.'[LNB]He arrived at Old Trafford six months after another bright, young Irish talent — Uniteddefender Jonny Evans, now 21. The two are close and go on holiday in the off-season.[LNB]Although Gibson was actually born in the north and played for Northern Ireland at Under 16 level, he elected to play for the Republic. [LNB]In a case that was ruled on by FIFA and discussed more than once at government level in Ireland, he invoked the terms of the Good Friday Agreement — it declares that anybody born in Northern Ireland is entitled to apply for Irish citizenship — to switch from north to south.[LNB]FIFA subsequently closed the loophole but Gibson's future appears secure with club and country.[LNB]Republic coach Giovanni Trapattoni appears to prefer Gibson ahead of Miller andSunderland's Andy Reid, while at Old Trafford moves are already afoot to secure him on a new contract that would afford him equal standing to his mate Evans. [LNB]It is no surprise he has already won over fans at United, a club who have been lucky enough to see arguably the two greatest Ulstermen, George Best and Norman Whiteside, pull on the famous red shirt.[LNB]Gibson added: 'The profile with Ireland did me good. When I got my chance with my country, I got it with my club.[LNB]'Fergie told me he watched the game against Cyprus and he thought I did well.'[LNB]Gibson may soon learn that referring to his manager by his nickname is not the way to get ahead at Old Trafford. [LNB]Nevertheless, it would appear to be the only mistake he has made this season.[LNB][LNB] [LNB]  

Source: Daily_Mail