“You can’t win anything with kids“.
Alan Hansen said that and had himself immortalized when Sir Alex proved him wrong the same season by winning the English double after inducing the class of ’92 into the first team. As we progress 18 years down the lane, The Premier league has still maintained its rich tradition of inducing young blood. In what was a season of countless twists and turns, there were some young players who made a mark. Let’s look at two of those players who asserted themselves as one of the best players around at a relatively young age.
David de Gea
Two years ago when Sir Alex paid 18mn for securing his services, the decision was largely criticized. From a silly mistake on his first ever match to being Manchester United’s Player of the season, David de Gea has grown in leaps and bounds.
While his record this season looks rather less impressive, that is highly due to the team’s poor performance especially at the back. The defense has been largely dormant and has contributed a lot towards Manchester United not playing well and suffering their worst ever finish in a Premier League season.
In such a situation, David de Gea has shown real maturity and held his own to save the team from further embarrassment. A prime example of this was the 3-0 defeat to Liverpool where he pulled off a world class save in a 1-on-1 situation against Luis Suarez.
Over the past few months, he has made few errors and has been a shining light in what was an otherwise dark season. David de Gea could take pride in the fact that he has made to the Spain squad for the World Cup. The Spaniard’s improvement should be credited to Eric Steele, former goalkeeping coach of Manchester United. Steele, who was so keen in improving De Gea made efforts to learn Spanish so that he could communicate easily with the youngster.
De Gea’s growth over the last two years has been rapid and he has quickly escalated to being one of the world’s best. While his 6ft 6 inch height gives him the edge to make diving saves, his lean frame meant that he would have troubles in the physically demanding Premier League.
True to the word, he did face it early in his life at United. While at the same time, he would perform well in Europe. Clearly marking out that his only problem was the physicality and he needed to do away with the tendency of punching balls away. A propensity of Spanish goalkeepers, the Premier League requires more of catching with majority of the clubs preferring to swing in corners from wide areas.
However, working with Eric Steele under the tutelage of Sir Alex and able guidance of his deputy Anders Lindegaard, meant that he would gradually learn the tricks of the trade and grow accustomed to the Premier League. And last season that was well established when he made the PFA Team of the year.
He always brought on his A-game against Chelsea and some of his saves against Mata were spectacular. But, the crowning moment of his career till date was the first leg against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu where he produced a near perfect performance, spare for a Ronaldo header.
At 23 years of age, David de Gea has an impressive resume and a good part of his career ahead of him. With Manchester United in the process of rebuilding, I should say David de Gea would be essential in that.
They say Jose Mourinho is one of the best brains in modern football. He won the Champions League with Porto upsetting all odds. He is often regarded as one of the most tactically astute coaches modern football has ever seen.
Yet, he failed to foresee the lack of quality he would induce into his striking department if he bought Eto’o and loaned out Lukaku. Sadly, for Chelsea’s strikers, everyone has been living of past reputation.
None of them can claim to be good strikers now except for Lukaku. A short look at statistics tells you he has scored just four goals short of what all the three strikers of Chelsea have scored together.
Such a record clearly states that Lukaku is capable of performing on the big stage with a good output. Perhaps, the only thing that is keeping him off Mourinho’s books is his lack of work rate but Chelsea could gradually develop that in him.
If you would take a look at Drogba, he was at the forefront because he was built to play in the Premier League. He had a daunting frame and was very good at taking shots with his first touch. A quick look at Lukaku and you would know how similar he is to Ivorian goalscorer.
Lukaku is dominating in the air and can change games on the face of it. A prime example should be the final match of Sir Alex’s tenure when Manchester United faced West Brom, where Lukaku was playing on loan.
With Manchester United leading 5-2, Lukaku came on and he revitalized the way West Brom played. He scored a hat trick and ensured a draw for West Brom. All this at the hands of a United defense that was very strong.
His biggest asset is his shot accuracy and pace which gives him the edge over the normal defender. He has been excellent this season and Chelsea could, more or less do with him rather than going for Diego Costa, a multi-million buy who could potentially end up being a flop.
Barcelona wanted him. He chose Manchester United. And Manchester United paid 297,000 for him. Wayne Rooney earns more than that in a week. He came to Carrington Road when he was 16. Now he is 18. And he is travelling to Brazil with the Belgium squad.
Well, that sums up his career trajectory. And I have no words, but to say thank you to Adnan Janujaz. In a season plunged by darkness, he was the sole ray of light glimmering at the end of the tunnel. Manchester United’s greatest strength over the past few years, young blood once again came to the fore as Adnan Januzaj carried the team for a better part of the season.
He brought life into a team which was wrecked by the departure of it’s greatest treasure. In the club’s 136-year old history, no man was as dynamic as Sir Alex Ferguson and when he left, the deeper remains of his echoing words never settled in. The fans did not associate themselves with David Moyes and Adnan Januzaj provided a reason why we should.
In a team that was distraught with a utopian ideology of winning matches by retreating after they took the lead, Januzaj provided hope. He showed us that Manchester United had the potential in their academy. He overturned the tables and made his best effort to bring up a lifeless time.
Manchester United had been in shambles and yet, he never really associated himself as a part of such a situation. He was the only outfield player who really looked like making a difference. David de Gea did his best at the back, but then he was a goalkeeper.
Adnan Januzaj scored just four goals but he created 31 chances. He completed an average of 2 dribbles per game and scored a brace on his first start. To regard him as one of the finest talents in the Premier League wouldn’t be a mistake.