Ever since Manchester United began its unprecedented spending spree this summer, news outlet after news outlet have pushed the idea that United has abandoned its roots and lost its identity. They argue that by selling the likes of Danny Welbeck and passing on Tom Cleverly that the Red Devils have lost a vital part of their soul. Sure, United has spending power, but what about tradition? What about the vibrant youth program that has produced the likes of Bobby Charlton, George Best, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and countless others? Has United become so consumed with winning and spending that it has lost its roots?
At the same time as this “identity crisis”, United has also faced the problems that come when three of your four defensive stalwarts all leave at the same time. Losing Vidić, Ferdinand, and Evra all in one fell swoop has had the effect on the Red Devils’ defense that is reminiscent of deflating a child’s bounce house after a birthday celebration. Even the signings of Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, and Daley Blind have done little to assuage the fears that United have a subpar defense that can’t carry them into the top four this season. It seems, however, that fate is not without a sense of irony.
Amidst a crisis of youth identity and defensive weakness furthered by injury woes, it seems that perhaps the problems have begun to solve themselves in the form of two young, promising defenders. Obviously I’m talking about newcomers Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair. I think it’s safe to say that a year ago today these two young footballers had never graced a thought in the minds of most Manchester United fans worldwide. Today I’d have to argue that they’ve impressed me most out of all of our young players this season so far. Sure, they make mistakes, as all young players do, but I think there’s something there that could see them grow into two formidable defenders for this season and many years to come. Seeing Tyler Blackett coolly deal with the pressure of being a United regular has been a pleasure and watching McNair easily put Romelu Lukaku to bed in the game against Everton was nothing short of heartwarming. It’s only been a few games, but expectations pile up quickly in Manchester.
It’s ironic that just when the world moans that Manchester United has lost its way that we see the emergence of two promising talents from United’s youth ranks. There’s no doubt in my mind that this pair will face many challenges this year as they have both been thrown into the frying pan, so to speak, with United’s injury problems and lack of depth on defense. It’s also safe to say there will be many sterner tests for the youngsters than they’ve faced this season so far. The heat is on. Ironically, hot fires forge sharp blades.