United's youngsters draw strength from playing with seniors

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The Independent Online

The Manchester United squad facing Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday's Carling Cup final will resemble something Arsène Wenger has assembled but Sir Alex Ferguson revealed that the presence of Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson, who may start the game, along with Rodrigo Possebon, Rafael and Fabio Da Silva, are the product of a plan he hatched with former assistant Carlos Queiroz several years ago.

"Some time ago, [Carlos and] I took a deliberate decision that the way forward with our youngsters was that as soon as we identified they had the quality and temperament to become first team players, then we would bring them into the squad and let them train with the seniors," Ferguson revealed.

"This has made a huge difference to their readiness for the big time and they are able to make the most of a first team chance as and when it comes along."

The strategy has had its challenges, not least congested training sessions. "Our sessions can be quite hectic and crowded at times but we have the coaching staff to cope," Ferguson said.

But with reserve team football, to Ferguson's mind, not offering an adequate test as it did in the days when United's fabled class of '92 was coming to the fore, exposure to the senior players has been essential. "It has enabled our young players to step up with more confidence than if they were coming straight out of the reserves and into the first team," the manager added.

Setbacks along the way have included the defeat at Old Trafford to Coventry City in last season's Carling Cup third round which left Ferguson claiming he was "flabbergasted".

That was an inauspicious debut night for Evans, who was vital to United's side in San Siro on Tuesday. There was also the 1-0 first leg defeat at Pride Park, Derby, this season, about which the United manager was more sanguine. But Welbeck's emergence, with three goals in his eight appearances, put with Rafael da Silva's lightning impression and the temperament and class of Evans, an injury doubt for Sunday, makes this arguably the most exciting season for United home-grown talent since Gary Neville, David Beckham and Paul Scholes burst onto the scene. A far cry, too, from Liverpool's paucity of such talent – a source of frustration to Rafael Benitez.

Ben Foster may be handed the goalkeeper's jersey ahead of Tomasz Kuszczak for Sunday, with Welbeck conceivably being deployed on the wing rather if Ferguson decides to offer Wayne Rooney some compensation for his limited seven-minute contribution at the San Siro by handing him a Wembley recall.

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