Sir Alex pens his thoughts ahead of every home match for United Review, the first page to turn to for fans, press and opponents alike. Even after the event, it makes good reading. So here, in full, is the manager's column from the Blackburn programme...
The tremendous support of our travelling fans at Derby last weekend was a timely reminder for me and the players of the difference great vocal encouragement can make as the season comes to a crunch.
I recall it was around this time last year that I made a plea for our crowd to turn up the volume. And they did this to the point where I felt it was like having a 12th man in the side. Last Sunday was like that, and with more support than usual because you get a bigger allocation of tickets for a Cup tie, it was exhilarating. The noise never stopped, and if our fans can maintain that level as the various competitions come to a head, I am sure it will make a big difference.
The youngsters certainly responded, and produced a super performance that put us through to the last eight of the FA Cup. I thought it was an excellent display, and perhaps the fruits of a deliberate decision I took some time ago, after sitting down with Carlos Queiroz. We agreed that the way forward with our youngsters was that as soon as we had identified they had the quality and temperament to become first-team players, then we would bring them into the squad and let them train with the seniors.
This has made a huge difference to their readiness for the big time, and they are able to make the most of a first-team chance as and when it comes along. This policy has made our training sessions quite hectic and crowded at times, but we have the coaching staff to cope, and it has enabled our young players to step up with more confidence than if they were coming straight out of the Reserves and into the first team.
It’s important that the lads feel they are progressing, and you have to challenge their ambition rather than let them linger so long at Reserve level that it