While fans and media await United’s first moves in this summer’s transfer market, supporters can be secure in the knowledge that United are in rude health at youth level. United may have only the single player – Frazier Campbell – in the England under-21 squad that reached the final of the European Championships on Monday, but the announcement last week of England’s under-20 squad was more promising. With four United players in the squad, plus a smattering of hugely talented yougsters on the fringe of the first team, the Reds’ long-term future looks promising.
The United quartet of Ben Amos, Danny Drinkwater, Matt James and Danny Welbeck were named in the 18 man party travelling to Ukraine next month to take part in the European under-20 championships. While history says that all four face an uphill struggle to establish themselves at Old Trafford, the call-up is ample reward for excellent performances at reserve level last seaon.
For Welbeck in particular the under-20 championships present a second opportunity to shine on the international stage this summer. The Manchester born striker was forced to withdraw from Stuart Pearce’s under-21 group following an injury. The tournament could also give Welbeck a springboard into the new season where he will push to become an ever more important member of the first team. He’s unlikely to fulfill Sir Alex Ferguson’s prediction of a place in England’s World Cup 2010 team in South Africa, but 2009-10 could be Welbeck’s breakthrough season, especialy given United’s continued frustration in the transfer market.
Amos, Drinkwater and James may be less well known having yet to appear in the United first team, but each has plenty of talent. ‘Keeper Amos had an excellent season in the reserve team for United, forcing his way into both the England under-20 and under-21 squads on occasion. Many youth-team watchers also rate defensive midfielder James just as highly. But while Welbeck will get game time in the Carling and FA Cup at least, with selected Premiership outings, the same is far from true for the rest of the quartet.
United’s strength in depth at youth level is not based on English talent alone. Indeed, the Jimmy Young young player of the year was the Italian Federico Macheda, who scored two crucial goals for the first team against Aston Villa and Sunderland last season. Add Fabio da Silva, Rodrigo Possebon, Davide Petrucci, and Corry Evans – Johnny’s younger brother – into the reserve team mix and United have talent to spare.
Will any of them make it? History says that at best one of the current youth group will play regularly for the first team in the coming years. Indeed, of the past 20 Jimmy Young award winners only Lee Martin, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Wes Brown ever established themselves as first teamers.