Viet Nam News
by Paul Kennedy
Former BBC pundit Alan Hansen once proclaimed to viewers of Match of the Day that “you’ll win nothing with kids”.
He was talking after a very youthful looking Manchester United team was beaten 3-1 at Aston Villa.
Known as Fergie’s Fledglings, the team featured Gary Neville (aged 20), Paul Scholes (20), Ryan Giggs (21), Phil Neville (18), Nicky Butt (20), and substitute appearances from David Beckham (20) and John O’Kane (20).
His infamous assertion was uttered after the opening match of the 1995/96 season.
United, with kids, went on to win the league, leaving the usually cool as a cucumber Hansen eating his words.
During that season United played six players under the age of 23 over ten games.
Winning the league, with kids, was an amazing achievement, but one that hasn’t been matched since.
Those particular kids, as Hansen called them, were brilliant players. And with the exception of O’Kane, all of them evolved into world class footballers whose careers, and medal haul, is nothing short of staggering.
So was Hansen wrong? That year he was. But since then, no other team has really won anything with kids.
In fact if you look at the current Manchester City and Liverpool teams who are vying for top spot this season, the average age of their squad is 26 years old.
Barcelona’s average age is 27, Real Madrid’s 26.
Liverpool’s youngest player is home-grown full back Trent Alexander-Arnold who turned 20 in October while City have 18-year-old Phil Foden, who to be fair, isn’t a regular in the first team.
Kids, it seems, rarely get a chance these day unless there’s an injury crisis, or they play in the early rounds of cup competitions.
That’s why many are looking abroad to further their careers, and in at least one case, that seems to be working.
Jadon Sancho is only 18 and a regular with Borussia Dortmund, scoring seven times in 28 games in all competitions this season. And he’s played for England on three occasions.
He’s rumoured to be on Manchester United’s radar and a summer move to Old Trafford could be on the cards for about £50 million (VNĐ1.4 trillion)
This is the same Jadon Sancho who was sold by United’s rivals Manchester City for just £8 million (VNĐ240 billion) 17 months ago.
I accept the Premier League, on the whole, is better than the Bundesliga, but not by much.
It seems what Dortmund could offer Sancho which City couldn’t, was quite simply a chance to prove himself.
Liverpool right now have two young strikers playing at academy level called Bobby Duncan and Paul Glatzal, who between them have found the back of the net 43 times this season.
But will they get the chance to play first team football? The answer is simple, no, they won’t.
If for some reason Mohammed Salah or Roberto Firmino decide to quit the Reds in the next transfer window and move on, chances are Liverpool will use the money from their sales to buy a world class striker instead of giving a chance to one of the youth players.
So what next for the likes of Duncan and Glatzal?
There’s a slim chance they may get some first team games next season in the early rounds of cup competitions, but if they want to make it on the big stage they are going to have to move, be it on loan or like Sancho did, permanently.
I don’t think there will ever be another team that wins the Premier League with kids like Manchester United did in 1996.
No matter how brilliant those kids are, it won’t happen because managers know, you win nothing with kids.
Alan Hansen was right in his post-match assessment of United’s defeat against Aston Villa in 1995.
He just chose the wrong season to say it.