Fergie’s Fledglings 2010

A Different League looks at the next generation of Manchester United youngsters expected to make the jump to first team favourites in the coming season.

Defenders

Chris Smalling – The central-defender’s fleeting performances for Fulham and the England Under-21 team were enough to identify the 20-year-old as an indispensable young talent. Smalling’s top attributes are his pace and his intelligent approach, particularly his ability to read the game. On top of this, he is six feet five inches tall and consequently, a dangerous target in the box from set-pieces, as he has already shown on the Red Devils’ pre-season tour. Smalling’s athletic ability should be beneficial both at the heart of the United defence and at the other end of the pitch.

Rafael da Silva – Having already establishing himself as an impressive full-back with numerous first-team appearances throughout the 2009-10 season, it would not be a surprise if Ferguson opts to choose the young Brazilian as his first-choice right-back. Rafael is the epitome of a Brazilian full-back with blistering pace and flair, however, what makes the 20-year-old even more remarkable is his robust approach to the game as well as his calmness in high-pressure matches. Although indiscipline can limit his performances, as he gains more top-level experience, he has the potential to become one of the leading full-backs in the future. His brother, Fabio da Silva, is equally as quick and as determined, but his appearances have been limited by Patrice Evra’s excellent form. Nevertheless, his versatility may just see the left-back creep into the United squad this season.

Corry Evans – The younger brother of Jonny Evans will be hoping to follow in his brother’s footsteps and become an integral part of the first-team squad. In the United Reserves, Evans flourished in central-defence with consistent performances. His confidence on the ball and his tackling ability made him the perfect defender, however, he is equally apt at playing in the heart of midfield or on either flank. This versatility may be crucial depending on injuries and suspensions.

Midfielders

Darron Gibson – The Republic of Ireland international has excelled since he gained more top-level experience. His composure, passing ability and powerful shot are all attributes that have made Gibson a strong contender for a start in the heart of the United midfield.

Gabriel Obertan – Having joined the Red Devils at the start of last season, his impact has been limited due to injuries. However, in 2010-11, he is certain to be given more chances to prove his worth. He has put in some impressive performances in pre-season and he displayed all of his attributes from quick, controlled dribbling to picking out defence-splitting passes.

Davide Petrucci – The highly-rated Italian attacking midfielder has yet to feature in the first-team squad since joining in 2008 from AS Roma. Injuries aside, Petrucci is one of the favourites to make the jump to the first-team squad due to his excellent passing of the ball and spectacular goals.

Strikers

Mame Biram Diouf – The Senegalese striker has already drawn comparisons with Didier Drogba due to his goal scoring record at his previous club, Molde, and his physical approach to the game. Diouf is a good finisher of the ball, especially in the air where his athletic ability makes him a constant threat to any defence.

Javier Hernandez – ‘Chicharito’ impressed during the 2010 World Cup for Mexico with two international goals and has already showed his qualities in pre-season. As an out-and-out striker, Hernandez is quick, two footed, good in the air and has already been compared to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It will be interesting to see how Ferguson employs the Mexican, whether it is as a lone striker or partnering Wayne Rooney.

Federico Macheda – Vital winning goals against Aston Villa and Sunderland in the 2008-09 campaign made him an instant hero at United. His clinical finishing, strength on the ball and positioning in the box offer the Red Devils an extra dimension in attack and ‘Kiko’ looks a promising future prospect both for United and Italy.

The Manchester United manager has a vast array of young talent to choose from in the coming season, adding not only to the strength-in-depth of the squad, but also to the determined attitude of the team with players fighting for their first-team place.

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