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Why Man Utd Bought Smalling, Jones and (Coming Soon) Ashley Young

Perhaps the defining idea of this era of football, reflective of the rapidly growing interconnectedness of World society, is the multinational team. More or less since the beginning of football, there have been players plying their trade away from the homeland, but only since the inception of the Premier League have we seen football’s horizons broadened to this extent; whole continents dragged together to resemble a sort of footballing Pangaea.

In 2010, the season was dominated by Inter Milan, a team without an Italian in the starting line-up. Meanwhile in London, this past season’s Arsenal side had a strong British presence — for a change. There is an Italian managing England, a Spaniard coaching Wigan and not so long ago an Englishman in the hot seat at FC Twente. In MLS, the NY Red Bulls became the first team to field a starting eleven made up of eleven different nationalities. For the record, they beat the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0.

While most have basked in the stunning football produced by this age of interactivity, the FIFA big wigs have squirmed in their chairs. When not accepting bribes, Blatter and company began the groundwork of instituting a 6+5 policy, limiting foreign influence in teams around the globe. Just last year, following a disgraceful showing by England at the World Cup, clubs were required to name at least eight “homegrown” players in their twenty-five man Premier League squads; an attempt to rehabilitate the English national team which is doomed to failure.

Sensing surely, the changing tide of football regulations, it is no surprise that the wiliest man in the game has already stolen a march on his rivals. In a summer which will likely be one of reconstruction for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, the framework has been set for a very British XI, one that could drive the Devils on for years to come.

On Wednesday, United agreed a fee for English central defender Phil Jones, a man dubbed by many as a future England captain. Having signed young center half Chris Smalling last year, it is clear that Fergie intends to build a new core of British talent, one which he is likely to mold his team around.

If the papers are to believed, next up on Ferguson’s hit list is another Englishman: Ashley Young. If Young does come in, then Nani’s so often brilliant, yet too often frustrating Manchester United career could come to an end. That switch would represent another part of Fergie’s attempt to build towards six plus five compliance, the two players are equal in terms of playing credentials, but only one of them has a British passport.

So as an era of Britishness dies at Old Trafford (in direct correlation with the retirements of Scholes and Neville) it seems as though Fergie is ready to start a new one. The signings of Young and Jones are only part of Ferguson’s plan though, as ever, there are a few budding youths waiting for a chance to shine on England’s biggest stage. Ravel Morrison has already represented England at three youth levels, and it was his brilliance which inspired the United youth team to FA Cup glory last season. Players such as Will Keane, Oliver Gill and Ryan Tunnicliffe are all also likely to be given first team opportunities in the near future, following in the footsteps of more established youngster like Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck.

Over the years, Ferguson has proved his ability to build and rebuild teams, adjust to new circumstances and change with the changing tides of football; after all, it isn’t just Scottish stubbornness which has kept him in the game for so long. Now, at sixty-nine years old, Sir Alex is showing no sign of letting up as he builds for the future, building for six plus five.

Read more by David Yaffe-Bellany at

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  1. boby valentino

    June 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    1 luv man u,n pls we need modric

  2. Edwin Anih C

    June 17, 2011 at 6:22 am

    please i need more information .

  3. Football Souvenirs

    June 12, 2011 at 4:51 am

    It will be interesting to see the effect on the top teams European campaigns. Will United have the same dominance in Europe with English players given the lack of success for the National team

  4. mark flynn

    June 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Its all platini`s plan to stop the monster that is the EPL.He cannot stand the way the french league is in the abyss.

    • MUFC77

      June 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      He was a great players in his day but when it comes to running the game he and Blatter are terrible.

  5. John

    June 11, 2011 at 4:35 am

    1) 6 + 5 is in violation of the basic tenants of European law and would never be legal. Free movement of workers in the European Union without any restrictions. Its a single economic entity (in theory).

    2) Financial fair play benefits the big teams that have spent. Man City & Chelsea got their investment in. Other teams can’t spend to catch up beyond what they already bring in. Therefore it is really hard to catch up without an owner investing greatly.

    • Qerero

      June 11, 2011 at 5:35 am

      Re FFP, your point is valid but only as long as the club values playing in Europe. If I’m a random mega-billionaire and I buy Wolves, for example, I can still pump massive cash in and make losses to move the club into contention without really losing anything (other than my money) since they weren’t in Europe anyway.

      • John

        June 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm

        True, good point.

      • MUFC77

        June 11, 2011 at 1:10 pm

        wouldn’t change anything you still wouldn’t get into Europe because you are SPENDING more than your likely making and that’s the whole point of FFP rules, in theory.

        • MUFC77

          June 11, 2011 at 1:19 pm

          And I think its also based on the previous 2-3 season financial records.

          • Qerero

            June 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm

            Yep, you’re right. Yet Man City has shown us these last couple of seasons that it’s possible to attract very impressive talent without immediate European football; and moreover, the original point of my post above was that the clubs seem completely unconcerned with FFP anyway, they seem to think they can circumvent it somehow.

  6. Gaz Hunt

    June 11, 2011 at 3:47 am

    I read an article today that joked that United’s transfer policy is to buy anyone Liverpool shows the slightest interest in.

    While not true, they both seem to have similar thoughts in regards to players. I just hope, as a Liverpool supporter, that it doesn’t continue as we are usually going to lose the bidding with no European competition to offer.

    • Jeff

      June 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm

      That is an absolutely ridiculous statement. Most clubs in the Premiership are after the same players. There are some differences depending on need, but obviously scouts on all teams can recognize talent. Phil Jones is a future starting CB for England. All the top clubs were after him. He chose to go to United. End of story.

      • Gaz Hunt

        June 12, 2011 at 10:41 pm

        It is a ridiculous statement. That’s why I said it wasn’t true.

        I don’t think all the top clubs were after him though. I do think Liverpool and Manchester United have similar thoughts on how a squad should look going forward. Not a bad thing nor a good thing. It just is.

        “He chose to go to United. End of story.”

        And that’s exactly my point. With these clubs having similar interest in players most will probably chose United with European competition to offer.

  7. Qerero

    June 10, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    If clubs are splashing out this kind of cash to satisfy regulations that don’t even exist yet, I wonder why are they showing no sign at all of concern over the Financial Fair Play regulations that we know will be in place very soon? I don’t mean only United and Liverpool, but the level of concern across the board seems very low with all the usual suspects talking of spending big this summer. They must know something we don’t don’t know? If we accept the premise that the Jones and Henderson signings were a reaction to 6+5, the nationality regulations must appear to the clubs to be harder to get around than FFP.

    • The Gaffer

      June 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm

      I think there’s a few reasons why Premier League clubs are not seeming very worried about the Financial Fair Play rules. First, we’re not sure whether the Financial Fair Play rules would stand up in court. Second, I’m sure the clubs – whether British, Spanish or otherwise – will be looking for loopholes. And third, do you think UEFA would really banish Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United (and others) from the Champions League?

      The Gaffer

      • Qerero

        June 11, 2011 at 5:39 am

        Agreed. I just found it interesting that the clubs are at least still paying lip service to the idea of abiding by FFP but aren’t showing any signs of following through, yet according to this post and at least one other article I’ve read they are already preemptively abiding by different rules that don’t even exist yet. Shows how seriously the big clubs are taking the FFP rules – it’s clear, as you say, that they don’t really believe they need to change.

  8. Lyle

    June 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Nationality requirements are stupid. Teams need to be free to play who they want to play.

  9. PaulFromMiami

    June 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Pogba looks like he will be a player. Man United has so much qualitity in their youth team. It is a credit to their scouts though to be able to get so many good young players.

    • MUFC77

      June 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      I agree with you on Pogba. Ravel Morrison also looks like he has the talents and skill to potentially be world class, providing he sorts himself out away from the pitch.

  10. Jay

    June 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Sir Alex is without doubt the best manager in sports ever. His vision and passion for the game, unbelievable. A genius and a legend. This and past generations should feel so honoured to be living in this time and witnessing the master at work

    • Taylor

      June 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      This comes from a United fan: there will be arguments re: who is the greatest manager ever. I would just say that Fergie is the greatest manager in the last 20 years.

      But I agree with the rest of the comments. And this is something that distinguishes SAF from Mourinho. Mourinho is an excellent manager but he doesn’t plan for the future: he buys to win and then he leaves. He doesn’t think of long-term health / future of his club

  11. ChrisW

    June 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Isn’t it true that any players, regardless of nationality, are counted as “home grown” if they have been at the club since before they were 18?

    So you can add Rafael, Fabio, Macheda and Pogba to that list too.

    • tim

      June 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      Homegrown rule is 3 years at and English Club(any English Club) before the age of 21.

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