United's future stars shine bright at Old Trafford

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Manchester United have been second best to Barcelona for three years in a row now - the Catalan club's dominance not only in La Liga, but the Champions League also - proving the number one frustration for Sir Alex Ferguson and his players in recent seasons.

Part of that may be down to the presence of midfield duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta - the Spanish playmakers who dictate the scintillating style of play that has become accustom at the Camp Nou - and continues to set the footballing world alight.

But, in the constantly evolving European landscape Messrs Xavi and Iniesta will not be able to carry on forever, and the good news for United is that they may have discovered a new generation of players who can go on to emulate their success.

Ferguson has often said that football is cyclical in nature, with clubs going through ups and downs when new talent comes in and the old guard moves on. His ability to constantly evolve and reinvent teams with tactical changes has only added to his reputation as one of the world's greatest ever managers, resulting in a particularly fluid and adaptable approach to modern-day football at Manchester United.

Jesse Lingard and Larnelle Cole are just two of the club's current crop of youngsters with which there is considerable buzz around Old Trafford. The midfield duo have already drawn comparisons to Barcelona's star pairing, as Danny Welbeck - another homegrown talent, who is currently making waves in United's senior side - explains.

"United have got so many good young footballers," he said. "There was all this hype around Ravel [Morrison] but not everyone is seeing the likes of Larnell Cole, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba, who are just as good in different ways.

"Sometimes I train against Larnell and Jesse and think I'm playing against a little Iniesta and Xavi. I really hope they can make that step up."

Despite all his promise, Morrison was sold to West Ham United on January transfer deadline day after Ferguson ran out of patience with the talented teenager's magnetic attraction to controversy. But for Lingard and Cole at Manchester United, the sky remains the limit.

Lingard has been one of the Red Devils’ star performers in the reserves this term - the 19-year-old scored his fifth goal of the 2011-12 campaign in Thursday's 4-2 defeat to Manchester City in the Senior Cup.

After being named on the bench as an unused substitute for the Carling Cup defeat to Crystal Palace back in November, as well as the Premier League loss at Newcastle United in January, the youngster is hoping to make his first-team breakthrough before the end of the season.

"I've been involved with the first team and I am playing well for the reserves so we'll see where it goes from there," Lingard recently told MUTV. "The aim is for more and hopefully I can play in the Europa League.

"It was good experience [at Newcastle], being around the players. Obviously, if you're going to be a Manchester United player, you have got to get used to that sort of stuff and I enjoyed it.

"It's always a good vibe. You talk about tactics before the match, and the coaches make sure you get enough rest for the big game.

"I've been getting a lot of advice actually. Chicharito told me about movement, Wayne Rooney spoke about finishing and Dimitar Berbatov talked about composure. It's good to get a lot of tips from them."

Having progressed through the ranks both at United and internationally with England, Lingard has made rapid strides towards a senior call. After catching the eye playing on either flank or in his preferred central role just behind the striker, it's clear that a bright future beckons for the promising academy product.

As Ferguson looks to add creativity and flair to his midfield ranks at Old Trafford - the answer to Manchester United's problems in that department could be right under their noses after all.

Premier League
Manchester United

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