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What's needed to allow United's youth to form the next great team

Manchester United's youngsters can be a significant part of the next great side at Old Trafford, but only if they have the right teammates.

Atsushi Tomura

A common opinion among a lot of English football fans at the moment is that they used to hate Gary Neville as a player, but respect him for his excellent punditry work. I've personally been of the opposite opinion - I love the guy, but half the things Neville comes out with as a pundit would be derided as jingoistic nonsense had they come from the mouths of Shearer, Lawrenson, et al.

So it was yesterday when Neville took to Twitter to claim United shouldn't be too desperate to sign new midfielders owing to the promise of our youngsters in Nick Powell, Adnan Januzaj and Jesse Lingard. Why risk bidding millions on new midfielders when we could risk spoiling the development of our existing stars?

The problem is that in yesterday's friendly, Adnan Janzaj and Jesse Lingard both started. Unfortunately, so did Tom Cleverley and Anderson - because the first two aren't central midfielders. The idea that Januzaj, whose talents are his final ball and remarkable touch, but who offers nothing defensively and is physically weak, is going to be our next great central midfielder, seem a little difficult to swallow.

We've seen the same problem with Shinji Kagawa, a man of similar strengths and weaknesses, who is also not a central midfielder. Too often last season, he was completely anonymous; his supposed positional switch blamed when the problem was simply that his job is to operate in the final third. So it is with our other youngsters. The problem is that this becomes increasingly difficult if there is nobody to supply them with passes in these areas, or sufficiently control a game to provide the platform for their creativity.

If we want to see these youngsters develop, we should give them the teammates they deserve. Breaking the bank for Fabregas gives us somebody who can run a game and give them the support they require. Their emergence is a reason to spend money, not a reason to keep it locked away. Even if we were somehow to convert them into midfielders, we'd then need to buy wingers.

The collection of such a wide range of talent in attacking midfield - Kagawa, Januzaj, Powell, Lingard, Wilfried Zaha, as well as the possibility of playing our new midfielder there, whether it's Cesc Fabregas, Yohan Cabaye, Luka Modric or Marouane Fellaini - shows the way for United's next stage of development. In addition, we have an excellent array of all-round forwards, and a return to the style of 2008-09 seems a decent bet.

That doesn't mean playing Javier Hernandez or Robin van Persie on the wing, it means recognising the versatility of talent in our ranks and unleashing the freedom that allows. Danny Welbeck has proven his worth operating on both the wing and as a defensively-minded second striker. Hernandez's all-round game has improved hugely. Robin van Persie's remarkable delivery allowed him to be a danger when drifting out wide. The ingredients to replicate the Rooney-Ronaldo-Tevez-Berbatov-Park-Nani rotating cast are all there.

What that team lacked, however, was a midfield with drive. Owen Hargreaves could occasionally provide it; but utilising Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher as simple sitting midfielders to provide the base was undone by Barcelona's more proactive midfield. With a Fabregas or similar midfielder included, the possibilities for the attacking potential of such an arrangement are endless, and so are the opportunities to use the right team selection for big games.

Variety of attacking options has been the hallmark of United's success in recent years, but David Moyes is laking very promising moves in looking to marry it to something else. When Neville gave us his tuppence, the strangest part was to effectively claim Moyes was wrong, since our manager has publicly identified our midfield as a weakness. Fortunately, only one of these men is managing the team. Moyes' ambition and ideas seem perfect, but now the time has come to realise them.