How Does The Youth Policy Under José Mourinho At Manchester United Compare With That Of Sir Alex Ferguson And Sir Matt Busby?

Posted: September 29, 2016 in European Football, Football, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League
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To answer this question in an honest manner it is necessary to understand the pressures under which the manager of a top Premier League club operates.

The first thing to appreciate is that José Mourinho will be judged on what he wins, not who he brings through from the youth team. This means that, in order to stay in the job long enough to blood potential first team players, he needs to be filling the trophy cabinet on a reasonably regular basis.

Sir Alex Ferguson was not renowned in his early years for bringing young players through the ranks. He was concentrating on getting the whole place in order and it took a few years before he could devote his time entirely to the football side of things.

The class of ’92 were drafted into the first team in 1996 and, famously, won the double that year. This was fully ten years after Ferguson had arrived at Old Trafford and he admits himself that he was very lucky that so many good players came through at the same time. It is a phenomenon unlikely to be repeated.

It should also be remembered that the United fans, as per usual, wanted the manager sacked in the early years because of results, not because of the lack of youth team members being promoted to the senior squad.

This, at the time, was not an issue. Not having won the title since 1967 was the issue and, by 1990, the supporters were getting more than a little impatient with Ferguson as he had now extended the number of years without being champions by four. He was to extend it by another two before United were finally crowned kings of England once more.

While United are winning the subject of youth will be put on the back burner and it should also be noted that, while Mourinho has started with an experienced team to try and get back into the top three, he has been unable to ignore Marcus Rashford who just seems to get better with every game as well as, unfortunately in my opinion, contually selecting Jesse Lingard.  He has also been giving regular starts to Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly who, although brought in from other clubs, are still very young.

When Mourinho’s time at United is over he will be remembered for the trophies he has won. As for the youth players, in 26+ years as manager of Manchester United, Fergie is remembered for bringing through the class of ’92 and very little else.

A policy started by Sir Matt Busby with the Busby Babes was accelerated as a result of the Munich air disaster and it didn’t really bear fruit in terms of winning things.

They won the FA Cup in 1963 thanks to goals from Denis Law and David Herd, both established players bought by Busby. They won the first division title in 1965 and again in 1967, then won the European Cup in 1968.

The European Cup win owed it all to youth team promotions but from several years previously in the cases of Bobby Charlton and George Best. Only the other goalscorer, Brian Kidd, who celebrated his 19th birthday on the day of the final could be said to have been a recent addition from the ranks.

This was virtually the same team as had won the League the previous season and it had featured, sporadically, the likes of John Fitzpatrick, Jimmy Ryan, David Sadler and Johnny Aston. These players had come through the youth system to a place on the bench for the first team and, when their careers at United were over, they disappeared into virtual obscurity.

So the two “Sirs” are remembered for their dedication to youth but not because it was a deliberate policy with either of them. Busby relied on youth because he was forced to after Munich, (see this article). Ferguson just got lucky with one exceptional batch of players. Hopefully the latter will happen with Mourinho as well, but it is an extremely long shot.

As long as José Mourinho has a team which wins football matches, which in turn will win trophies, then the occasional youth player is bound to break through into the first team and the Old Trafford faithful will be ecstatically happy. If not, then United will just wait until one of the players they have given away becomes one of the best footballers in the world and they will buy him back for many millions of pounds, simple!


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