Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday claimed vindication against those who have questioned his belief in youth, as one of the youngest Manchester United sides to play at Wembley secured the Community Shield and a psychological edge over Manchester City.
After coming from behind to record a 3-2 injury time win, which Wayne Rooney tweeted was "a footballing lesson" for City, Ferguson returned to the criticism he received in the depths of last autumn's struggles to claim he had proved his detractors wrong.
"For us [this] just confirms what I thought about the squad," he said. "People were saying it was not the best United squad and things like that but you have to remember a lot of young players will improve. We have brought [Tom] Cleverley back [from Wigan], Danny Welbeck [from Sunderland] and [Mame] Diouf [from Blackburn]. These young players are the future."
City's own young hope – 20-year-old Mario Balotelli – attracted more controversy by marching straight from the field after being substituted, prompting the former United captain Gary Neville to say: "Balotelli is an embarrassment to the club. [Roberto] Mancini spends 25 per cent of press conferences talking about him. I could understand it if he was scoring 25 goals a season." Balotelli returned pitchside, and appeared to have been ordered back, but Mancini said: "None of my staff told him to come back. I was concentrating on the game. I think he can do his job better."
The contribution of 21-year-old Cleverley, who arrived with Phil Jones and Jonny Evans after an interval which had City 2-0 up, was excellent. He provided a crucial touch for United's sublime equaliser – a contrast to Balotelli's latest histrionics. Ferguson insisted at the height of the Rooney contract saga on 20 October, when the striker had publicly questioned the United acquisition policy, that: "People don't identify potential. They're very poor at it. I've identified it all my life – the potential in young people. I know potential. I know how to develop and have faith in young people, who surprise you when given the opportunity."
Mancini, who is likely to step up his pursuit of Arsenal's Samir Nasri and Fiorentina's Alessio Cerci this week, said the defeat would not affect City's mental edge. "No, no, no. I don't think this," he said. "It will be important for us to understand why we lost this game. We need to have a strong mentality."
Mancini, who dismissed Italian reports of a move for Internazionale's Wesley Sneijder, added: "They played better than us. When you go up 2-0 you need to control the game. The correct result was 2-2 but this is football."Reuse content