Can Fergie’s Fledglings hold down the fort?


After signing Phil Jones, Sir Alex Ferguson said that he would be receiving substantial playing time this season. You can’t think at the time he meant this much.

In the opening game for United’s 2011-12 Premiership campaign Jones started the game on the bench and wasn’t even the first defensive sub off of the bench.

Johnny Evans was forced into duty as captain Nemanja Vidic could no longer continue and has since been ruled out of action for approximately a month.

Less than thirty minutes later United was forced to make yet another injury substitution. This time, Rio Ferdinand was forced to be subbed, bringing Jones into the fold. It was later found that Ferdinand will likely be sidelines for around six weeks.

The problems in the Manchester back line don’t end there however, as earlier in the day it was announced that Brazilian full back Rafael would be absent from the line-up for around ten weeks with a dislocated shoulder.

He isn’t the only full back out with injury either, as the team’s staple at left back, Patrice Evra currently is out with a knee injury and has no set return date yet.

So for those tallying at home, United are now down their entire projected starting back-line.

Adding to matter is the fact that Ferguson lost a majority of his veteran reserve stalwarts in the off-season. Gary Neville retired and both John O’Shea and Wes Brown were purchased by Sunderland.

Versatile Belgium defender Ritchie de Laet is currently on loan at Norwich City in order to gradually gain experience and playing time as he isn’t truly ready for full duty at United.

This leaves a total of four healthy regular defenders for the title favorites. Fabio, Johnny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones would make for a solid 23 & under back line, but is it ready to be the for one of (if not the) most recognizable clubs in the world?

In all honesty, they don’t have a choice. Ferguson will likely be reluctant to purchase someone who won’t play into the long term goals of the club. Especially after spending heavily (as compared to past years) this off-season.

Ferguson and the Red Devils have endured stretches like this before. United has had to employ midfielders Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher in the back line and even switch to a more nontraditional 3 man back line when dealing with previous injury plagues.

The difference in this year and the past is the goalkeeping. Edwin van der Sar was a veteran presence and rock in goal. However, with his retirement United has turned to the talented youngster David de Gea. But, de Gea has had a rocky start and is yet to reach a point where confidence is growing for not only himself, but by teammates, the manager and the United fan base.

If United are to have a shot at winning another league title, or at least avoid digging themselves into an early hole to start the season they are going to have to a small group of talented youngsters put in continuous grown man-like performances night in and night out.

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Click here to have a look out our predictions for the 2011/2012 Premier League Season!

Or have a look at the ten strikers that we think will lead the race for the Golden Boot next season

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