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Guardian writer Matt Scott talks about a ‘failure’ of Manchester United’s youth policy. It’s a clever piece and an excellent example of how you can use stats out of context to justify just about any point of view.
Matt’s overenthusiastic efforts apart, I think it’s a good subject to discuss here – which of Arsenal (Wenger) and Manchester United (Ferguson) have a better youth policy, and more importantly, what criteria do we use to judge it?
First, I don’t think transfer spending has any relevance on youth policy – quoting figures for Rio, Saha, Smith, Carrick and Heinze is pointless when it has nothing to do with developing the kids. Similarly, the prices paid for Rooney and Ronaldo don’t factor in – we’re talking about bring young players at an early age and then growing them step-by-step from the reserves into the first team.
If you want to compare Arsenal and Manchester United, you might as well do it on equitable terms and not bring irrelevant facts to prove your case.
How do you judge a club’s youth policy?
On how soon they are fast-tracked into the first team? That criteria ignores the importance second question – were the players brought in because of a lack of alternatives or because they actually play well?
On what trophies they win? At this point I anticipate a flurry of Arsenal responses pointing to last year’s Champions League final. I’d point to Silva, Toure, Henry, Lehmann and Fabregas as the main proponents of that run, and the fact that they got to the final despite playing with kids.
However, it is a significant achievement. My question is – have the Manchester United’s young players been given the same chance? And would Wenger have consciously played so many young players if Campbell and Ashley Cole had been fit and on good form, and if Reyes had not been bitching so much? Just questions and looking at things from a different point of view.
On what awards those players win?
On how many goals they score?
On how pretty their football is? Pretty football is about style, not about results. Are basing our opinion of ‘better youth policy’ based on how nice it is to watch?
Based on their hype?
I’m not a fan of rating players by hype – that works both ways and one day a striker could be god, the next he misses three chances and his form is down the drain.
I’d be interested in hearing what you guys think about how youth policies should be judged.
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Arsenal’s current crop of young players should be judged in a few years’ time, not now. Similarly, United’s young players (admittedly, the graduates of that policy are not setting the world alight, but that’s a different story), when they start playing more and more next season, should only be judged after a few years. Fergie’s fledglings were judged on the impact they had on the Premiership and on Manchester United in the years to come.
Why praise either side now, when they’ve not won anything?
What do you guys think?