Sunday, October 28, 2007

Transition from the class of '92 nears its conclusion, but is the jigsaw complete?...

Perhaps Fergie's greatest achievement at Manchester United has been his ability to create great new teams. All the very best managers down the years have had this ability.

Matt Busby had it at United, he created three great sides. Busby was appointed as manager of the club in 1945, the Reds had no ground due to Old Trafford being bombed in the war. Home games were played at rivals Man City's Maine Road, but like a phoenix rising from the ashes the Red Devils won the FA Cup in 1948 and then a after an incredible forty one year wait they secured the league title in 1952.

Busby's second great team, the famous Busby Babes, won the league title in '56 and '57, but the heart of that side was ripped out in the Munich air disaster in 1958. So once again Busby had to go back to the drawing board and this time he came up with the holy trinity of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and 'the boy from Belfast' Georgie Best to create arguably United's greatest ever side who finally went on to lift the European Cup in style in 1968.

Bill Shankly at Liverpool had the ability to recreate greatness. Arsene Wenger has done it with Arsenal and now many Reds will be thinking that Fergie could now be on the verge of creating his third great team, some fans even say it could be his fourth, because the historic treble-winning side of 1999 was a very different team to that which helped secure the double-double in 1995-'96.

What isn't in doubt is the fact that the class of '92, who've been at the centre core of the manager's first team for over a decade and includes current stars such as Paul Scholes and Gary Neville are very much on the way out - you can add the name of Ryan Giggs, but he has been an ever-present during Fergie's reign at the club - which in itself is quite remarkable.

This ability to transform and recreate and at the same time keep on winning on the pitch really is something special and perhaps only after Fergie spits out his final piece of match-day chewing-gum and brings down the curtain on his time at United will we the fans really appreciate what he's achieved at the club.

For the most part, Fergie's reign at United has been about evolution rather than revolution, but back in the summer of '95 it was most definitely a case of revolution with players such as massive fans favourites Paul Ince, Andre Kanchelskis and Mark Hughes all being sold on.

News of the moves sent shockwaves round the football world. One Sunday tabloid printed a graphic of a shattered light bulb and a fragmented club crest together with the headline of 'Will the last one out turn out the lights'. Personally, at the time I thought our glorious leader had really lost the plot.

But Fergie had a bold plan that centred on the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the likes of the Neville Brothers and Nicky Butt. This group of players had become known as 'Fergie's Fledglings' and it didn't start too well for them on the opening day of the new season in '95-'96 when despite putting on a great show they went on to lose 3-1 against Aston Villa. That season ended, like many others under the stewardship of Fergie, in glory, as the Reds secured their second league and cup double and in doing so, pundit Alan Hansen was made to eat his words after he'd famously said 'you win nothing with kids'.

However, since the summer revolution of '95-96, by and large, it has been a case of transition, this has largely been possible because Fergie has been able to rely upon those former Fledglings while at the same time bringing in new players and easing out those who were deemed surplus to requirements.

There has been controversial moves, perhaps none bigger than the sale of Japp Stam to Lazio in '2001-'02. That particular transfer turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and eventually cost United £30m to put right when they acquired Rio Ferdinand.

Move forward to 'Red October' 2007 and Fergie's latest incarnation has scored four goals in four games, which equals a club record that stretches back to '1907-'1908. Once again the critics who just a few weeks ago were asking questions about the manager have been proven wrong as the Reds are now lording it over the rest of the Premier League, if only until Arsenal face Liverpool later in the day.

So how good can this current team eventually be? That is question that will be answered in the weeks ahead. Some will argue that United still need to add at least two new players before the jigsaw is complete. A new striker must be in Fergie's plans and maybe a new right-back too. Interestingly, yesterday the Reds were linked with another Bayern Munich star in the form veteran defender Willie Sagnol, that could be just newspaper talk, but United do need to find a long-term replacement for Gary Neville.

What looks to be beyond doubt is that the manager has bought well over the summer with the likes of Tevez, Anderson, Nani and Hargreaves all looking like United players who will help to ensure that the best attacking traditions of United are guaranteed for the future while the transition from the class of '92 comes to its glorious conclusion.


  1. Great post JR,

    Yesterdays team with the exception of O’Shea & Brown (although I am a Brown fan) was a glimpse of the future. It was in my opinion the team of choice. Providing everyone is in good form, it should be the team that takes us to our next run of trophy’s both home & abroad.

    This is the first time since Eric’s time that I have started to get that feeling of invincibility. Then it meant going into every game expecting to win & striking fear into the heart of the opposition before the game had even started. In recent games I have had that warm smug feeling once more. There cannot be many talents that could ever outshine Ronaldo on the pitch but the partnership of Tevez & Rooney certainly appears to be drawing the eye away from Ronaldo & as such must be striking terror into the hearts of defenders throughout the league.

    If Fergie cannot win major honours with this team then it will be because the players give it away. This is certainly a great time to be watching them play I may even consider getting my seat number tattooed onto my a*se.

    Bring on the Arsenal!

  2. What you predict about this current team is partly true. There are two crucial elements to having successful team: 1)Top-class keeper. 2)Top-class bench.

    EVDS is nearing the end of his career. Kusczak is untested over long runs. So, I'm not quite confident with this department. As to our bench, well, its pretty thin in the front line and back line. (O'Shea and Brown are not the types of soldiers you want to have facing the likes of AC Milan)

  3. Granny, et al, regarding Rooney and Tevez, I've thought that this partnership had real potential from the outset, but they are really clicking now and they could go on to be awesome.

    Of the team in general. There is still some areas of concern, namely Hargreaves, who continues to be seemingly almost always injured - like Saha.

    But, Anderson is now proving any doubters wrong and so even if Hargreaves is out Fergie can bring in the likes of Carrick and Scholes when fit.

    The keeper situation is another area where Fergie might have longer term concerns. I haven't seen much of this Ben Foster, but I'm told he is pretty good. I will have to reserve judgement on him.

    United might not be able to match the likes of Chelsea when it comes to quality strength in depth, but the squad is a lot stronger than the one that won the title last year.

    Overall I think Fergie is definitely on the right road to creating a third or fourth great team.

  4. Squad depth Squad depth Squad depth, that seems to be our main reservation, and hopefully, when that concern is satisfied, we will have a team that can win titles consistently across competitions, and not a team susceptible to overhauls due to two or three injuries. Last season was a great effort, a tremendous effort, regarding the resources Ferguson had at his disposal, the last four victories also have been tremendous efforts. At the same time, the various 1-0s, have been tremendous efforts, and edged out victories. My point is that a team such as United must not rely on tremendous efforts to get by, it must have a squad deep and with enough quality to avoid taking that 110% of the player, as that has long-term consequences. Let us hope you are right with Ferguson's long term plan.


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