Edwin van der Sar, Tomasz Kuszczak, Gary Neville, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Nemanja Vidic, John O’Shea, Ritchie De Laet, Nani, Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Ji-Sung Park, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Antonio Valencia, Darron Gibson, Owen Hargreaves, Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Michael Owen
The 25-man squads have all been named, then, with few high-profile casualties, it has to be said. One notable victim of the new regs was injury-hit Jonathan Woodgate, of Spurs, who lost out on a place following the signing of Rafael van der Vaart. There were no such casualties at Old Trafford, however. Not even Owen Hargreaves. And so the press have been awash with sensationalist headlines banging on about how Hargreaves’ career has been handed a lifeline. It hasn’t. Because Manchester United DON’T HAVE 25 players to name in the squad. Nobody has lost out because Hargreaves was named in the squad; the fact that he was named is simply because there was a space going spare.
Don’t get me wrong. Hargreaves may well come back this season. Personally, I doubt it, but there’s always a chance. But people have read far too much into this squad business, because at this point in time, it hasn’t made much difference. 12 of the 20 Premier League clubs, including United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have been unable to fill the 25-man quota. These clubs would be able to field any of their senior or youth players whether the new regulations are in place or not.
The regulations have evidently not proved to be a big problem for United. Of the 24 players named in the squad, 13 of those qualify as home grown players, so there’s had to be no huge re-shuffle for Sir Alex. The inclusion of Evans, Gibson and Fletcher discredits the argument that United haven’t brought anyone through the youth ranks since the Fledglings era of the mid-90s (trust me, people still try to argue this, but they don’t tend to be very intelligent). Chelsea, conversely, are finally being punished for their reluctance to field British players, and have only managed to name four home grown players (one of whom is keeper Ross Turnbull, brought in specifically to sit on the bench and fill a home grown slot in the squad).
This squad is not totally representative of who’s going to play for United this season, as it ignores all the under-21s who play a significant role in the first team. Expect to see a lot of Chris Smalling, Rafael, Fabio and Federico Macheda. And maybe Bebe, too. So there’s enough strength in depth there for United to challenge for title again. But that was true last season, and United remain relatively unaffected by the new Premier League regulations.
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