Are Manchester United’s Second-Tier Players the Key to Their Success?

30novjohn.jpgFans, pundits and fellow players considered Kieran Richardson lazy, inadequate and many other unfortunate synonyms when he was at Manchester United.  He made only 41 league appearances in five seasons at the club, scoring just two goals.  Richardson’s £5.5 signing seemed at the time a misguided move by Roy Keane in the summer of 2007.  Thus far, that’s been hardly the case.

At Sunderland, Richardson has blossomed.  Despite injuries, he’s developed into a dynamic attacker, a free kick artist and a match winner.  Originally viewed as unworthy of his fee, Richardson would probably be worth at least double it now, if manager Ricky Sbragia saw him as dispensable.  We never saw Richardson’s full potential until he left Manchester United, which raises a question.  How valuable are their other second-tier players?

John O’Shea’s popular image is as a bit of a bumbler and a doofus.  He’s never cemented a place as a first-team regular, despite making 313 appearances.   He’s clearly not in the same class as Cristiano Ronaldo, though he’ll show the occasional burst of flair.

However, the 27-year-old is very versatile.  He can fill in at fullback, centre-half and in central midfield, without United noticeably declining.  He literally has played every position on the pitch for United.  How much would a player like him be worth for Everton or Tottenham?  How good would he be with a consistent place in the Starting XI?

Who, when discussing a Manchester United performance, ever touches on Wes Brown’s contribution?  Listing the best players at various positions in the Premier League, Brown’s name seldom arises.  Has he been overlooked?

United were better with Brown at right back last season than they were with Gary Neville the year before.  Fabio Capello brought Brown into the England squad ahead of the far more hyped Micah Richards, with solid results.  If Wes Brown were playing for a mid-table club such as Portsmouth, would he receive more praise?

Look at Darren Fletcher as well.  He’s often maligned compared to his more talented companions.  Even his own teammates have ridiculed him.  At 24-years-old he’s never nailed down a place in the United midfield.

Despite this, however, Fletcher has been important for Manchester United.  When big signings Hargreaves and Carrick have been injured, Fletcher has filled in for big matches and played well.  United displayed no midfield faults when he played against Chelsea.  He already has 40 caps for Scotland.  He probably steps straight into 14 or 15 Premier League Starting XIs.  How good would he be with a regular run of games?

Manchester United have elite-level talents, such as Ronaldo, Rooney and Ferdinand, but so do Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.  What sets Manchester United apart is their second tier.  While the other big three falter noticeably without a star or two, United absorb injuries, calling on experienced players, such as O’Shea, Brown and Fletcher to fill a hole without incident.

Rather than being oafs or wastrels, these second-tier players are a major reason, Manchester United has won the Premier League the past two seasons.

13 thoughts on “Are Manchester United’s Second-Tier Players the Key to Their Success?”

  1. You can say what you want about united supporters but the true supporters love john o'shea and know that if anyone needs to rest or he needs to fill in johnny will be there. This also speaks to the fact that Sir Alex knows how to manage his second tier guys into being contributors or super subs. Solksjaer was important in that way.

  2. ok i dont want to umm give this piece crap but of the teams with the strongest bench most people generally go with chelsea. Chelsea's only weakness in reserve is their lack of attacking players and many of them are currently loaned out. United did thrash chelsea but chelsea have generally had over the course of the current season enough injuries to dent the title hopes of most sides with the 1st choice centre backs barely ever playing together, only 1 fit striker for most of early season, j.coles on and off again injuries same with ballack, essien has been out for most the of the year. Malouda hasnt had a chance to really shine since he has got injured due to his recurring injuries(when he got injured he had the leagues highest assists). Thats basically 6 players in a field of 11 that have been injured, off and on again. And who are the replacements, many of them good enough to walk into any club in the world and fight for a first team spot. United's second string might be good enought for the bottom feeders but can you see brown, fletcher and many others being considered by top teams?

  3. Chelsea have no depth at striker. They have marginal depth in midfield without Essien. Even under the Mourinho hey days, they didn't have a deep squad. It's the reason they played a full strength side in the Carling Cup.

  4. I've been saying for the last few years to anyone that would listen that O'Shea is a valuable and underrated member of the Manchester United team simply because he plays wherever asked and gives a credible effort. He doesn't complain about not starting, though he could probably be a regular starter for one of the teams in the mid-lower part of the table. You can't underestimate how much a good sub is worth to your squad. Especially a time like now when United have some significant injuries at the back.

  5. This is a good article. Spot on IMO.

    O'Shea, Fletcher, PJS, Wes Brown..all guys who can step in, and no doubt would start on pretty much 80% of EPL clubs.

  6. mikel/deco/essien/lampard/ballack/belletti pick 3
    j.cole/malouda/kalou pick 2
    Drogba/anelka pick 1
    Ferriera/belletti/bosingwa pick 1
    Carvalho/terry/alex/ivanovic pick 2
    A.cole pick 1.

    till bridge was sold chelsea had first class choices for all their reserves, look at the midfield. As i admitted our weakness is depth in the attack, most of them know they will get games so no drive to win their spot.
    No matter how much a hate c.ron(mainly cause he plays for manU) he is a professional when it comes to the drive to be better, he has improved every season since he started, works hard when needed and justifies his name on the team sheet every week. Same thing can be said of many united players, they have a drive that ferguson stokes and chelsea unfortunately have lost the drive, they are happy to coast by and alot of them need a kick in the arse. United win because they never stop trying to win not because their players are world class level, many of them are not but a world class team isnt always made up of world class players

  7. Some good points here. For me, besides stellar plug-in play from the players mentioned, United are elevated because of Nemanja Vidic. He is the difference between United and other top sides. The Serb is the best defender in the world, completely uncompromising. Evra too is quite unsung in his position.

    1. i my self am a huge united fan, but i dont understand why there are so many people saying how great ji sung park is! i seem to be the only person to realise this, but i honestly dont believe he is worthy of playing at united. every match i watch, his first touch is aweful, as is his control. im almost waiting for him to lose possession. i know he scores goals, but so can any player in the right place at the rigt time…eg a rebounded ball, about 3 feet from an open goal. thats all his goals ever are. i just find it irritating how no body ever sees this. just watch him in are next game, and i bet you will see him lose posession atleast twice as much as another utd player. nani on the other hand, although un experienced, he is much better in all aspects of the ggame; speed control fitness finishing passing the list is endless. all park has is alot of luck, and for some reason i dont see, fergies backing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *