Ferguson stands by Manchester United youngsters

Sir Alex Ferguson has rounded on the critics who have written his youngsters off following Manchester United's Champions League defeat to Besiktas last week.

Ferguson elected to field most of the young players that steered the Red Devils to last season's Carling Cup success, with strikers Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck both still in their teens.

Gabriel Obertan and Rafael Da Silva are equally lacking in experience, so while Ferguson was disappointed at United's failure to collect the point required to confirm top spot in Group B, he felt it had been a useful workout for players he believes have the talent to reach the pinnacle of their profession.

It was with a sense of total disbelief therefore that Ferguson digested a generally condemnatory assessment of both the performance and players involved.

The response has been equally withering.

"Those lads need to be challenged and I thought they did OK," said Ferguson.

"They did not deserve that kind of criticism.

"Those same people will be going cap in hand to them, begging them for interviews in a few years' time, mark my words. It is so hypocritical.

"What is the difference between that and Alan Hansen doing it in front of millions? Yet one gets slaughtered for it and this guy gets off. Wonderful. What a world."

Ferguson was referring to Hansen's comments about Wayne Bridge on Match of the Day after Manchester City's draw with Burnley earlier this month.

As the person who left Hansen out of Scotland's 1986 World Cup squad, there has never been any particular empathy between the pair.

However, there is a recognition of the respect Hansen has gained in his role as a pundit, and his unique insight into the art of defending.

Ferguson clearly feels others sitting in judgement do not possess the same depth of knowledge which is why he will disregard their opinions completely and play the same bunch of players in tomorrow night's Carling Cup quarter-final against Tottenham, the side United defeated at Wembley to lift the trophy last term.

"I don't need to motivate them with what has been said," said Ferguson. "Their future is well mapped out.

"But the one thing we cannot give them is an old head, which is what we saw in the last third of the pitch last week.

"They got anxious. They created good chances and they hurried the thing. But that is not the biggest crime in the world.

"We are not talking about ability here. We are talking about experience and in that sense is starting to stack up. That is why we have to play them."

There will be an infusion of experience though as United look to reach their fifth semi-final in eight seasons.

Michael Owen will hope to be involved, while Dimitar Berbatov could be make his first appearance in the competition since scoring for Tottenham in their 2008 final victory over Chelsea.

However, Ferguson is committed to using the younger members of his squad.

And, as someone who was in the same situation himself not that long ago, Darren Fletcher has first-hand experience of the benefits now being gained by the stars of tomorrow.

"We don't dismiss the Carling Cup at all," he said.

"It has been an important competition for the younger players and lads on the fringes of the squad for many years.

"Last year the lads went all the way to the final and won it. What a great achievement that was.

"For people like Ben Foster, Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson to win their first trophy provided them invaluable experience which will stay with them for the rest of their careers.

"We have so many games these players are an integral part of the squad.

"It is vitally important for them to go through the experiences they are getting just now because ultimately, it is going to make them better players."