Sir Alex Ferguson has issued an angry response to criticism levelled at some of his young players during the Reds’ 1-0 Champions League defeat to Besiktas last week. And the boss defiantly states that his intent to play them against Tottenham in the Carling Cup on Tuesday will not be swayed.
Opportunities were given to six players under the age of 22: Danny Welbeck (then 18), Federico Macheda (18), Rafael (19), Gabriel Obertan (20), Anderson (21) and Darron Gibson (22).
“It will be the same players that played on Wednesday,” he said of his team for Tuesday’s visit of Harry Redknapp’s side. “Their future is well marked out, I think.”
The press were clearly unimpressed, but Sir Alex took particular exception to one report.
“One journalist wrote, ‘there’s no future for these players, no tomorrow for them’," Sir Alex said incredulously. "What an idiot. I can’t believe that. It’s unbelievable. When Beckham, Butt, Scholes and all those lads played in 1996, they were 22 years of age - three years ahead of these players. So that kind of reaction is amazing, isn’t it?
“Of course they will grow from that experience. I was confident of playing them, and they had every right to play. They will play on Tuesday, too.”
The performance against Besiktas was typically youthful – a strong start, full of enthusiasm, but without the know-how to make possession and chances count.
“They got anxious. They’d made good chances but hurried things - that’s not the biggest crime in the world. We’re not talking about ability here, we’re talking about experience.”
Seemingly, if the critics had their way, these young players would be stuck in the Catch-22 of never getting the experience of playing on such occasions precisely because they too inexperienced.
“That’s why we have to play them,” says Sir Alex. “Games are the one thing we have to give them. We can’t just give them that old head that helps you deal with situations like on Wednesday in the final third of the field.