Much is often made about the importance of experience in football, and never has an example been so clear as with Manchester United’s current drive for the Premier League title.
Valencia’s growing confidence is fast turning him into the first name on Sir Alex Ferguson’s team sheet. The manager’s own experience has come to the fore, with the Scot instilling faith in his winger with words of praise following Valencia’s outstanding comeback from injury against Wolves in March. Compare this to Roberto Mancini, who said before and after City’s game against Sunderland at the weekend that he could not trust his striker Mario Balotelli, who found the net twice for his team. It is doubtful Ferguson would have come out and publicly criticised a player who he needs to be full of confidence to help him win the league title.
The epitome of experience in the United side comes courtesy of Paul Scholes. He has the ability to dictate games, control the flow of play through midfield, and force his team on their opponents in such a manner that made United seem like the home side on Monday evening. It is no coincidence that since Scholes has returned, United have taken 31 out of a possible 33 points from the games the playmaker has started. He has also enabled Ferguson to spread the experience of Giggs further, using the two veterans in tandem and at differing times to instil calmness throughout the side. Giggs’ role in United’s late victory at Norwich was testament to this, as he provided a gilt-edged chance for Danny Welbeck before sealing the win himself.
The influence of Rio Ferdinand this season cannot be underestimated, adding his own brand of calmness to the United backline. With Nemanja Vidic missing for the sharp end of the season, Ferdinand’s ability to manage his back problems and help bring the best out of Jonny Evans has been crucial. Ferguson recently heralded Ferdinand’s influence in the dressing room, and earmarked the centre back to take over from the likes of Giggs and Scholes as his most experienced of troops in the future.
Manchester City lack the experience that their cross-city rivals possess. Vincent Kompany’s need for an experienced partner has been exposed when the Belgian defender has missed games in the second half of the season. Meanwhile, their engine room is made up of players such as Gareth Barry and James Milner who have never won a title, along with Nigel de Jong, who himself has only tasted league success once, with Ajax. Yaya Toure has won it all with Barcelona, but his experience is not in the Premier League. United’s squad is brimming with title-winning know-how that is proving vital in the run-in.
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