Sir Alex Ferguson says youngsters must be given time to flourish at Manchester United

David De Gea and Danny Welbeck were particularly impressive against Real Madrid

Sir Alex Ferguson believes patience is the key to getting the best out of Manchester United's youngsters.

United earned a lot of praise for their performance against Real Madrid in midweek, with David de Gea and goalscorer Danny Welbeck singled out for special attention.

Yet neither man has enjoyed a trouble-free campaign, with De Gea condemned at regular points - including by Gary Neville - for his failure to command the penalty area, and Welbeck's disappointing goal return also highlighted.

However, Ferguson's faith in both men has never wavered.

"We're always patient with young players," said Ferguson.

"If you think they have the ability, you have to be prepared to wait."

Ferguson's reward came in the Bernabeu, where De Gea produced possibly his best performance for United, making a string of fine saves, including twice memorably denying Fabio Coentrao.

"Maturity helps," said Ferguson.

"There are very few goalkeepers who go into first-teams when they're 20 and are the finished article.

"There are some examples that defy my reasoning, the likes of Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus and Petr Cech, who went from Rennes to Chelsea.

"That's not always the case, though.

"Peter Schmeichel didn't join us until he was 27 and then gave us eight great years."

Jack Butland's impending arrival at Stoke has been viewed as a signal Asmir Begovic will be making the move to Old Trafford in the summer, casting further doubt over De Gea's future.

But Ferguson has this season to navigate first and he knows De Gea's display in Madrid could be priceless.

"A good performance helps everyone," he said.

"It gives them confidence and David is a down-to-earth boy."

The same traits can also be applied to Welbeck, whose goal gave United the lead, a remarkable effort given he had only scored once previously this season.

"Danny's goal won't do him any harm," said Ferguson.

"He is not a boy who lacks confidence and wasn't fazed by the occasion."

And, as a local boy, Welbeck is setting the example for other younger players to follow, with Ferguson particularly keen on the first-team chances of Nick Powell and Adnan Januzaj.

"It's a great boost for the younger players coming up behind him," said Ferguson.

"Danny has been with us since the age of nine, so it's a great testimony to the development we do with young players.

"Nick Powell and Adnan Januzaj were in the reserves on Monday and you say to yourself: 'These are definite Manchester United first-team players'.

"They have outstanding qualities. We can see that.

"They can see that in trusting us to map out their careers, they can get to Danny's level."

PA

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