Sir Alex Ferguson says he is close to finalising his 25 man Premier League squad but may have to make a last-minute call on injured players. New rules dictate that Ferguson must name a maximum squad of 25 men, including eight players deemed as home grown. The Scot may also name an unlimited ‘B’ list of under 21 players to supplement the squad.
Premier League rules, agreed by club chairmen last September, state that home grown players are those registered by an English club for at least three seasons between the ages of 16 and 21. Ferguson is well served in this department with 12 players in his ‘A’ list and another eight on the ‘B’ list this season.
The United manager will also benefit from naming a number of first team squad members on his ‘B’ list, including Rafael da Silva, Chris Smalling, Federico Macheda and Gabriel Obertan whom are all under 21 as of January this year.
Ferguson’s final Premier League squad is also likely to match his Champions League squad very closely, although the rules are not identical. UEFA also stipulate a 25 man ‘A’ squad but have no provision for home grown talent. The United manager can also name a ‘B’ list of players born on or after 1 January 1989, so long as each player was eligible to play for the club for any uninterrupted period of two years since their 15th birthday.
However, Ferguson indicated that he may be forced to leave out injured pair Anderson and Owen Hargreaves if either has not recovered from injury by the time the window shuts. Anderson is expected to return in late September, while Hargreaves remains at Dr. Richard Steadman’s Denver clinic for the foreseeable future.
“It does give me a problem, but I’ve just got to wait as long as I can,” Ferguson said overnight in Houston, where United faces the MLS All-Stars last on Wednesday night.
“I have to make a decision at some point of course and it depends on when I think those players can come back. Most of it [the squad] is formulated in my mind, but one or two I have to make decisions on.”
With 25 men probably on the ‘A’ list already, Ferguson is likely to face a tough choice over Anderson and Hargreaves only if the Scot dips into the transfer market for a player over the age of 21 before the window closes on 1 September this year.
The new rules, despite some media coverage to the contrary, are not aimed at increasing the number of English players in the Premier League, although they will offer younger players more exposure and prevent player stockpiling.
Indeed, United is already well place in terms of squad composition compared to rivals Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and especially Liverpool. While City may leave expensive signings on the sidelines, or ship them out this summer, Liverpool can only name a 20-man senior squad as it stands. Similarly Chelsea and Arsenal are each short of home grown talent within the senior ranks.
Ferguson may face a tougher choice at start of 2011/12, with home grown players Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville possibly retiring. That said a number of the current ‘B’ list including the da Silva brothers will qualify as home grown if they are not already by next summer.
If the legendary United triumvirate does retire Ferguson will face some serious challenges rebuilding his squad, with Michael Owen and Hargeaves also out of contract in June 2011. While Owen’s contract includes an option for a third season at the club, it will take a minor miracle for Canadian-born England international Hargreaves to earn another contract with the club.
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