Football

Manchester United lead the way for English youth development

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This week the F.A Chairman Greg Dyke outlined the emphasis required to be placed upon ensuring the future of English football over the coming years.

For the majority of top Premier League sides the inclusion of English players has become a secondary concern. In stark contrast to the rest of the continent, the Premier League has become a division made up largely of foreign imports.

Clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and more recently Tottenham, are focusing less and less on the development of the young boys that enter their academies when they first learn to play football, and alternatively look to buy the finished product from overseas.

What's more worrying is the realisation that the majority of young starlets breaking through in top English teams aren't English at all.

The big name young guns of the Premier League, including the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Philippe Coutinho, Kevin de Bruyne and Erik Lamela have all imports from foreign shores, and it's becoming an increasingly popular trend for teams to buy overseas players when they're 15 and 16, and then nurture them until they're mature enough for first-team football.

One team who have broken that trend, up until now at least, are Manchester United. Yes, they do buy from Europe, and yes they do have a number of young players who wouldn't be eligible for England duty, but the fact remains that they are currently carrying the gauntlet in terms of the development of English footballers.

Players like Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary & Phil Neville and Wayne Rooney were all developed at Old Trafford. The latter admittedly was already an astonishing talent when he moved from Everton aged 18 in 2004, but it was United who oversaw the transition from unpolished gem to valuable diamond.

The likes of Phil Jones, Tom Cleverly, Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling and most recently Wilfried Zaha can all lay claim to a first team spot at United, and given that the eldest of that crop is Cleverly, aged 24, it depicts a fairly rosy outlook for the future of English football at Old Trafford at least.

Moving back to the ambitions laid on the table by Greg Dyke of the F.A, it's more pertinent that ever that the Premier League, at the highest possible level, continues to showcase English talent amongst the hordes of purchases arriving from the likes of Spain, Germany and Brazil.

A quick glance at the top teams around the continent reveals an interesting correlation.

Barcelona and Real Madrid regularly field teams dominated by Spanish-born players. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, bar a few exceptions, can make up the national team from their players alone, and even the likes of AC Milan and Juventus are made up by a majority of Italian players.

Is it coincidence then that the national teams, made up entirely of players who are performing week in week out at the best clubs in the world, are considered the main challengers for the World Cup? I think not.

A structural re-haul of English football at it's most basic level is required if the national team stand any chance of competing with the world's best at any World Cup in the near future.
A failure to act upon what has been recognised as an alarming obstacle for the future of English football will only stand to ensure England's fall from world contenders to mediocre competitors.

More of England's top sides should follow in Manchester United's footsteps and place an emphasis on developing the youth, which would only bode well for the future of the national side.

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Topics:
Manchester United
Football
Premier League

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