The heritage of Manchester United has long been built on growing and nurturing homegrown, British talent, who rise through the ranks of schoolboys and academies to play on the biggest stage. The famous ‘Class of 92’ provide the proof of how it can be done, winning the treble in 1999.
But were the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phillip Neville, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs a one-off?
Sir Alex Ferguson blended youth with established stars but even his transfer policy targeted British players – Mark Hughes, Roy Keane, Andy Cole, Wayne Rooney.
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Admittedly, United brought some of the finest players of other nationalities in too: Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin van Persie, but Ferguson always retained the identity instilled into the club's history.
So with all that history moulding the club’s philosophy on British players getting the chance, why are so many foreign players taking up places on the team sheet?
FOREIGN LEGION FOR UNITED
This year, Van Gaal has spent close to £85 million on summer signings. Memphis Depay (£31 million from PSV Eindhoven), Bastian Schweinsteiger (£14.4 from Bayern Munich), Morgan Schneiderlin (£25m from Southampton) and Matteo Darmian (£12.7m from Torino).
A year previously, he spent £150 million on Angel di Maria, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw, in addition to an ambitious loan deal for Radamel Falcao.
WHERE’S THE IDENTITY?
Van Gaal’s approach to winning is different to Ferguson's. He likes them to follow his methods of thinking which have brought him successes at AZ Alkmaar, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
Van Gaal was reported by The Mail in September 2014 as setting out strict changes to the training regime including double sessions, 11-a-side matches being played for 45 minutes, two days before a game and players being given study material of their training performances to take home.
But his debut season at Old Trafford was a tricky one, with a last minute grab for fourth spot that in the latter games.
His reign has seen the removal of British players, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, who struggled to fit into his plans, and a number of incoming, foreign stars..
Many United fans must be feeling that United are losing their identity in place of quick fixes, ready made superstars and sponsorship deals.
Moving with the times
Given that every other team is competing at a much higher level now than most were in United’s glory years, it's important for United to stay on pace.
As David Moyes’ spell in charge showed, United’s established players lacked creativity, imagination and the killer instinct that Ferguson had crafted for over a quarter of a century.
As we’ve seen with the acquisitions of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas at Chelsea or Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal, imported stars bolsters a team’s ambitions, they make things happen and bring new talents to the Premier League.
United have to spent money on the best stars in the world, who unfortunately are not British grown players. The philosophies retained by Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson are only effective in the time periods they managed because football is always changing, evolving and getting better.
To win trophies, United must surely have to forge a new future, done in the Van Gaal way but with the United premise of attacking football still very much present If any repeat of the glory years is to take place.
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