Manchester United’s proud British heart:


As Tom Cleverley signs a new deal and Man United enter the winter period top of the tree, Sir Alex Ferguson can only marvel at the Champions’ ‘British Invasion’

Sir Alex Ferguson may be turning the grand-old age of 70 this December but his youthful and exciting Manchester United side must make him feel about 17 with the way they’ve been going about their business in the Premier League this season.

After a close season which saw their ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City make all the headlines with the big money signings of Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri, the gritty old Scotsman has been steadily assembling a new side built to win another Premier League title and, hopefully, knock Barcelona off their perch on the European front.

What marks the Champions out from the rest of their peers at the start of this exciting nineteenth Premier League campaign is the strong British blood that runs through the veins of the side.

Recruited in the summer was young Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea from Atletico Madrid following the retirement of Dutch stalwart Edwin van der Sar, closely following the acquisitions of young defender Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers and much-sought-after Ashley Young from Aston Villa.

While de Gea is still finding his feet – and hands – in the physical battlefield of the top flight, it’s the Champions’ British starlets that have been making their mark on the 2011-2012 Premier League campaign.

The versatile and assured Phil Jones has slotted in perfectly amongst United’s back four and displays the kind of maturity and calm head that should see him take the reigns as United’s main defensive lynchpin as Ferdinand and Vidic edge into their thirties. One only needs to take a look at the lung-busting run that was made in the build-up to United’s third – and Wayne Rooney’s second – goal against Bolton, to see how much of an exciting player Ferguson’s men have got on their hands. Blackburn’s loss is most definitely Man United’s gain.

Then, we have Ashley Young who has stepped up to the plate in marvellous fashion following his switch from Midlands to Manchester – his skill, pace and bullets-in-his-boots shooting has added an extra dimension to United’s already potent attack. His two expert finishes in the 8-2 demolition of Arsenal prove his prowess from range and show that, as well as having the ability to run at a man, he also has an excellent eye for goal.

In addition, Ferguson has acquired defender Chris Smalling, poached in January’s transfer window from Fulham and recalled young midfielder Tom Cleverley after a very promising season down the road at Wigan Athletic. Smalling is a tall, pacey defender who was playing non-league football only three years ago at Maidstone United and has made the step-up quite astutely. Cleverley fits the mould of ‘combative midfielder’ who will sit nicely alongside anyone of Fletcher, Anderson or Carrick in the engine room. While he is still raw and learning the game, take a look at his involvement in the build-up to United’s second goal against Man City in the Charity Shield to see what this young man can do.

Indeed, whilst currently kicking his heels on the treatment table following a challenge from Bolton’s Kevin Davies in September, that hasn’t stopped the Basingstoke-born lad putting pen-to-paper on a new four-year deal with the table toppers, which will keep him at the club until 2015.

With Wayne Rooney back to his imperious best (nine league goals already this season) and the likes of Young and Jones continuing to supply the necessary ammo, don’t bet against United’s current crop of British stars claiming the club’s 20th league title.

While one must doff their cap to Man City’s exciting new brand of ‘liquid football’ and continue to admire Chelsea for their juggernaut persistence at breaching United’s threshold on the title, you can’t help but feel that Ferguson has built another squad – beating with a proud British heart – that will take some stopping.

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