How to graduate from United's junior ranks

Former Ipswich striker James Scowcroft analyses how four debutants fared on Wednesday night

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The Independent Online

The League Cup has always been an important competition, especially for young players. So many have used it as a springboard, including myself. Sir Alex Ferguson sees it as a vital cog in developing youngsters at Old Trafford. He handed debuts to defenders Scott Wootton, Michael Keane, Marnick Vermijl and Ryan Tunnicliffe on Wednesday against Newcastle. It will be a night they will remember for the rest of their lives.

It would have been the first time these youngsters have faced playing under pressure from paying supporters. No academy or reserve games can replicate this.

But Wootton, Keane and Vermijl can be pleased with their performances in the 2-1 win over Newcastle. All made mistakes, but you learn from them. It was interesting to see Ferguson and Wayne Rooney continuing to encourage Vermijl, the right-back, to get forward and be positive. The youngster made a few rash decisions, especially in the final third, but Rooney, the captain, knew the importance of helping him.

Senior players can play just as big a part as the manager. The experienced pros at United over the years have been crucial in the education of the younger players. Both centre-halves Wootton and Keane can learn so much from Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

The big step up for the four and also young Robbie Brady, who like Tunnicliffe came on as a sub, is the physicality of the senior game. Wootton and Keane came up against two experienced players in Shola Ameobi and Papiss Cissé. And they gave the two defenders a stern test.

A last word on Brady, who looked more than comfortable. Maybe this was down to his 39 appearances on loan last year at Hull, where he looked at home in the Championship: expect to see more of him.