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Can you still win anything with kids?

Friday 11th August 2017
Alan Hansen's misguided opinion has become the stuff of football legend as the dour Scotsman claimed, in 1995, that Manchester United had no chance of securing silverware with such a young squad - as it transpired the youthful side went on to win everything an English club possibly could in the space of four years.

22 years on, is Alan Hansen any closer to being right about his claims that you can't win anything with kids? Plenty of teams rely on very young players to provide their creative spark to great effect but a reliance on experience is creeping into the game steadily as several major clubs are proving.

Consider a team like Ajax who holds an inordinate record of having an academy graduate in their matchday squad for every game almost since the club was founded - they have an almost total reliance on youth and have won a staggering 33 Eredivisie titles. Granted, they've secured no titles since 2014 but a three-year leave of absence from the top spot is hardly an indication that you can't win anything with kids...

Conversely, Barcelona's La Masia academy is one of the worlds most reputable and yet they have become something of a buying club. Aside of Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta (obviously Messi), most of their usual starting XI have been purchased at the peak of their careers - why bother when you have one of the world's most exceptional talent factories feeding your team?

So a side who used to rely wholly on their academy have started to look to experience in pursuit of success - does that mean the age of youth is over?

Further investigation around Europe sees the more dominant sides buying experienced players into their clubs. Juventus essentially built a team around Andrea Pirlo, PSG relied wholly on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and even Sporting Lisbon and Porto are clinging to older heads instead of bleeding youth into the fold.

The main crux of the matter comes down to the club that started it all, via Alan Hansen, Manchester United.

Employing Jose Mourinho to steer the ship was labelled a poor decision by many as the Portuguese isn't known for nurturing youth, instead preferring to send scouts out to find in form players to fill the waning gaps in his teams. However, Mourinho has embraced the role at Old Trafford and seems to be favouring rough diamonds over the finished article.

The likes of Marcus Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay and Jesse Lingard are but a few of the academy graduates who are firmly within the first team fold and are proudly wearing the United shirt alongside younger imports such as Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Victor Lindelof - the average age of a Manchester United starting XI will only be increased by the presence of the remaining old guard of Carrick, Young and Valencia who are currently considered the MUFC over 30's.

So, a League Cup, a Community Shield and a Europa League trophy came (mostly) courtesy of a bunch of kids led by an experienced leader... It's a bit much to compare Zlatan to King Eric but history has certainly repeated itself.

Four more years!
Kristian Webb
A Manchester United fan who actually knows where Manchester is; I'm the chief writer for AccumulatorTips, ForzaSwansea and a contributor to WhatCulture's video game section. I'm a professional proofreader, content author and SEO Expert but that doesn't mean there won't be the odd grammatical error!

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