'You are not just seeing ability, you are seeing the future,' says Sir Alex Ferguson

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson marched into the small press room at the Carrington training ground and began with a head-shaking monologue about the riots that have disfigured Manchester. The real sadness was reserved for those young people who had been given opportunities which had been thrown away in pursuit of a free iPad from a looted store on Deansgate.

His kids, at least, are all right. The second half of the Community Shield, in which a young, fearless Manchester United overturned City's two-goal lead, was proof of that. It was just coincidence, perhaps, that what was supposed to have been the grand, set-piece transfer of the summer – Wesley Sneijder's move from San Siro to Old Trafford – petered out shortly afterwards. The Dutchman's wage demands may have been excessive but at 27 he is rather elderly by United standards, certainly by those on display at Wembley.

"You are not just seeing ability, you are seeing the future," Ferguson said of talents like Danny Welbeck's and Tom Cleverley's that were loaned out and then recalled. "It drives all of us on and we are all enthusiastic about what happened on Sunday.

"I know it was only the Community Shield and Manchester City were not as fit as us but the one thing that does not change is that we wanted to win it and we wanted to play our football.

"Welbeck is actually in his fourth season with us. He was in the first team at 17 and scored a goal in a League Cup tie. Cleverley had a different route because of his physique. He is not as strong as the other lads so he went on loan to Leicester, Watford and Wigan. Progress has been slower for him but we were always going to take him back."

You wonder if Cleverley and Welbeck, who a year ago was preparing for a season with Sunderland, were aware of that. How many really expect to see Bebe again now that one of Ferguson's more extraordinary striking gambles has been sent to Istanbul to play for Besiktas?

"That might have been the case when we sent the likes of David Beckham to Preston," said Ferguson. "Then, they might have been thinking that maybe we didn't fancy them. But it has been proven that the ones who do go out on loan come back better players because reserve-team football is not what it was 15 years ago.

"It has become an extension of youth-team football. Once the academy got rid of the Under-19s, it left a void. What do you do with players coming out of the academy at 18?"

The DW Stadium may not be Old Trafford but it is a step up from Moss Lane, Altrincham, where United's reserves play.

"The big selling point of these loan deals is that they can play," said Ferguson. "You are disappointed when they go out on loan and a player doesn't get games. Federico Macheda went to Sampdoria last season. They were bottom of the league and changed the coach. The new coach didn't want to play him because he wanted to avoid relegation and didn't trust a young player. He got relegated."

Paul Pogba has attracted the attention of Juventus but Ferguson is unlikely to send his 18-year-old French midfielder out on loan. He is wary of comparisons with Patrick Vieira. "They are the same height. But you have to remind yourself what Vieira was doing at 18 – playing centre-half for Cannes.

"I moved him from the reserve to the first team after we played a charity game at Monaco. I thought: 'Yes, he is not bad; he could be quite interesting.' He could be a big surprise for us."

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm

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