Manchester United’s FA Cup win this season is a huge hurdle its young squad has overcome.
The Reds beat Crystal Palace 2-1 after extra time at Wembley to claim their first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. For the majority of the United’s young players, it has been their first season in the senior squad and early success will be huge for their development. A total of 10 players under the age of 25 have made their debut this season alone (including new signings). Although many of the academy graduates have won things at youth level, nothing can compare to senior success.
The famous class of 92 won two Premier League titles and an FA Cup in their first two seasons before going on to help the club achieve one of its most successful periods to date. Early success can only further strengthen a team’s spirit and helps overall squad growth. This season’s cup triumph also helps to end any talk of a baron trophyless run after three years without a title. It prevents pressure mounting regarding when a first senior winners’ medal for many of the squad will come.
As well as providing a huge confidence boost and belief for the squad, it also gives the players a taste of success which can only fuel their desire for more. Under Ferguson, a title-winning season would usually lead to further success the following season. This has become part of the club’s DNA, whilst continuing in the traditions and exceptions. The younger players can only grow having met these expectations to a certain extent while success also endears younger players further to fans.
Back in 2011, I wrote an article about there being a bright, young future at Old Trafford after a number of young players were either signed or promoted to the first team. That side went onto to win a Premier League title, following missing out on goal difference the previous year. Coming from two goals down at Wembley to win the Community Shield 3-2 against Manchester City had an invaluable effect on the newly formed squad’s resolve.
As Jose Mourinho takes over at Old Trafford next season, he can surely not ignore the club’s promising youth at his disposal – especially after winning the FA Cup. Louis van Gaal has followed in the club’s philosophy of promoting youth and hopefully this squad can continue to progress. Although much of United’s young side are yet to experience the success of winning the Premier League, this victory will only help with future title pursuits.
Manchester United narrowly overcame league-leaders Tottenham in a 1-0 victory on the Reds’ debut at the Salford City Stadium in the Under-21 Premier League.
Ryan Tunnicliffe scored the only goal after 56 minutes, in a game free for supporters. Sir Alex Ferguson watched from the stands and would have been pleased to have seen the young side limit Spurs to few clear cut chances. The London side’s best effort came from a Christian Ceballos free-kick which clipped the top of the bar in the second-half. Warren Joyce’s side can take huge positives from their evening’s display, with goalscorer Tunnicliffe, Adnan Januzaj and Jesse Lingard all looking particularly impressive in a well organised United side.
A power cut late in the first-half caused a floodlights outage but after a brief pause in play and consultation, the final five minutes of the half were completed without the need for artificial light.
Last season’s Premier Reserve League North winners have now kept a clean sheet in seven of their last eight games and move above Liverpool into second place, five points behind tonight’s opponents, with a game in hand.
Manchester United’s under-21 side now await a clash with Liverpool which was due to be played at Old Trafford on Friday but has been postponed after the Merseyside club’s involvement in the FA Youth Cup.
Alan Keegan has been the stadium announcer at Manchester United for over 10 years and has seen many changes at the club in that time.
I recently sat down with ‘the Voice of Old Trafford’ halfway through the 2011/12 season, which is his thirteenth with the Reds.
How did you become involved with Manchester United?
I’ve always been interested in sport on the whole, specifically Manchester United and football. If we’re looking at a pathway, when I was younger I did a lot of radio work and in the early days I worked for Manchester City and specifically their Junior Blues. It was a case of getting involved with a sport that I loved and the fact that I supported Manchester United was irrelevant at that time. I was just pleased to be involved with a football club; it didn’t matter if it was Backstreet Wonders as long as it was somebody I could just involve myself with. As a result of work with City’s Junior Blues I stepped in for James H.
Reeve, who was a prominent broadcaster in the Manchester area at the time. He used to host the Junior Blues once a month during the season for nine months and coming up to Christmas he dropped out as he had other things on his agenda. I got asked, to cut a long story short, two people recommended me and I ended up doing it for Ian Niven who was the chairman of the Junior Blues at the time and I was a bit concerned as I was a Man United fan. But I made it clear to him that I would be professional.
Then one thing let to another, where I remained at City for a number of years, and then they asked me to do the warm up on the pitch for the main announcer which I willingly did. It was a great step up for me and really boosted my confidence because I was talking in front of, at the time I think City’s capacity at Maine Road was 38,000 and it was packed every week. That was good training for me and their announcer left and I got his job, so it was over a period of years and I was always professional at Manchester City.
At the end of the day I had a great time at City, it was a fantastic stepping-stone for me and I was very grateful for the break. As a result of that I started working at Manchester United in corporate hospitality hosting their rooms. Then the Man United announcer at the time was leaving and United found out that the guy who did City was a United fan, maybe we should interview him and the rest is history. I got the job at the club that I love.
You’ve been at Manchester United now for over ten years, how has your job changed in that time?
It’s changed quite a lot actually as the part of the stadium announcer’s pre-match build up is now aimed at the commercial side and the sponsorship because nearly every match is sponsored by one of the companies at the club. For example one match it maybe Nike, the next it could be AON or Audi so there’s a lot of engagement with the sponsors at Old Trafford and partially with presentations. So over the years, what were just general announcements about the club and tickets, which we still do, it now has a bigger impact with the sponsorship side both pre-match and at half time. You’ll have a half time activity which might be a penalty shoot-out or it might just be a presentation so the role has changed considerably.
My role has also changed because I do a lot of events outside of the match days now as an announcer role. For example in the summer I went on tour with the team for the three weeks to America with my role being very much engaged with hosting the corporate events with the sponsors. DHL came on board and they had a lot of activity, especially during half time for the first three games, so there’s a lot of interaction and activity which I’m involved in.
Do you have any interesting stories from your time at Manchester United which you can tell?
Well there’s always interesting stories when you work in the public domain, and you’re doing an announcing job there’s always going to be situations which occur that are always funny on the back of a mishap, and there’s been many of them. I’ve had quite a few mishaps in the last ten years but you’re experience takes you through. There’s been a few funny stories, for example, Teddy Sheringham came back to the club when he was playing for Spurs, he was substituted and due to force of habit he went to go into the United dugout and as I stand next to the dugout on a match day, I just gave him the nod and said Teddy you’re over there. The lads were saying you should have let him come up, it would have been even funnier and maybe I should have as it would have bee very funny.
Then you’ve got the scenario, because of where I’m positioned on a match- day, when Arsene Wenger kicked the water bottle and the referee sent him to the stands. He ended up going on to the presentation platform and it we had this glorious picture of him with his arms out. So there’s all those funny situations, Sir Alex is brilliant when you do any events with him, he’s absolutely fantastic. He’s such a fan of the club, I know he’s the manager but he’s a fan as well which comes across and what he doesn’t know about United’s not worth talking about.
You’ve been described as ‘the Voice of Old Trafford’, how does it feel to be associated with a ground which boasts over a hundred years of history and with Manchester United?
It’s an honour, a privilege. It’s absolutely fantastic because I’m Manchester born and bred. I consider it a privilege to be called ‘the Voice of Old Trafford’, they did a day in the life of me a number of years ago on DVD and the section was called ‘the Voice of Old Trafford’ and it’s sort of stuck. It’s brilliant, I love it, I’m a Manchester United fan and I celebrate like a fan when we score a goal, really there should be a bit of me which is impartial because of where I am but I can’t help it.
I never ever bore of what I do, every match day’s different. It’s just a dream come true, it’s the ultimate dream job. I love the fact I’ve had some great times in the time I’ve been the announcer as a supporter of United as I remember when we got relegated and the Tommy Docherty era where Stevie Coppell and Gordon Hill . Two wingers playing great football and winning promotion but like I say it’s a dream job.
You spoke about Sir Alex Ferguson, what are your opinions of the United manager who recently turned 70-years-old and what he’s achieved, and still achieving in his career?
Unbelievable. His energy, his enthusiasm. I’ve been fortunate enough, like I say, to have worked at the club for thirteen seasons and had a lot of interaction with Sir Alex because you’re doing presentations with him, you’re doing the corporate events and it never ceases to amaze me, his energy. I think that’s the ultimate compliment I can give him; he’s always energised and very active in the club, and proactive with what he wants to achieve. I think the beauty of Sir Alex is he’s the leader, he’s the man that we follow and you know at the end of the day, he’s 70-years-old but he certainly doesn’t look it in my opinion and doesn’t act like it.
I think that the team and the club but particularly the team, the way he’s rebuilt it over the years, they keep him youthful. I think he’s had to change as the years have developed and he’s moved with the changes, that’s the key to his success. If you think back to when he first joined, the main basis of the team was British players, as such and over time you’ve got the foreign input of players and he’s gone with those changes and adapted. He’s just absolutely fantastic and long may it continue.
What are your opinions on the current title race which appears to be between your former employees Manchester City and United?
It’s fantastic for Manchester overall, at the end of the day it’s about us being the capital of football if you like. It’s interesting that it is City because we’ve always had challenges if it be Blackburn with the money that Jack Walker brought in, whether it’s Arsenal, Chelsea with the Roman Abramovich money and we now have another challenge, Man City and Sheikh Mansour’s money. So that challenge will always be there and I think that’s another element which keeps Sir Alex going and motivated because everything’s a challenge.
Obviously with we had the two Champions League finals which we lost to Barcelona but the beauty of Sir Alex is he always goes back and rises to the challenge and I think that’s what City has brought to the table. It’s an interesting time at the moment because of the next six games which the two clubs have, it appears City have the easier matches. We’ve [Manchester United] got a testing time ahead with our schedule, with Liverpool and with Chelsea coming up.
The football cliché is there’s no easy matches, so it’s interesting but we’ve been there before so that will hold is in good stead. As long as you’re only one match behind it’s a good place to be because we’ve got the experience in the club, a manager who knows what it’s like and I think it will go to the wire, I wouldn’t be surprised if it went down to the last day. I just hope it doesn’t go down to goal difference.
On Tuesday 20 December 2011 I got in contact with Sir Alex Ferguson requesting I could attend one of his weekly manger press conferences at Carrington.
Often held at the end of the week during the season, the event is not open to all press. For students, entry behind the gates of ‘Fortress Carrington’ is extremely rare but much to my delight on Thursday 29th December I received a reply from Sir Alex who gratefully accepted.
The following day (30/12/11) I attended the Manchester United manager’s presser which started at about 9:25am. As Ferguson went to leave following the new conference, I was able to personally thank him for allowing me to attend. News
The big news to come out of the news conference was that Chris Smalling is suffering from tonsillitis and not glandular fever which the United defender had suffered from when he was a child. Also Ferguson stated he felt Tottenham were playing the best football in the country at the moment and were serious title contenders. It was made known David De Gea would return in goal for the next two games but the Spaniard was later dropped against Newcastle.
The experience of attending Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s press conference was invaluable. As a trainee journalist and Manchester United employee, it was a huge pleasure to attend my first Ferguson presser. I’m very thankful to Sir Alex and the club’s media team.
After a thrilling Community Shield comeback yesterday, Manchester United’s talented youngsters make for an exciting future at the club.
After what was, most would agree, an average season in terms of performances last season, the new term has already promised to be a vast improvement for the Reds. Although the champions won the Premier League and only lost out to Barcelona in the Champions League final last season, they often struggled with inconsistency away from Old Trafford. Sir Alex’s men had to grind out far more results than they’d have liked, often having to comeback from behind. Although some things haven’t changed, the squad has had an injection of young talent with loanees returning and three new summer signings. Four players featured for England earlier in the summer during the under-21 European Championships while also new signing David De Gea kept goal for winners Spain.
Phil Jones from Blackburn, Ashley Young from Aston Villa and with goalkeeper De Gea moving from Athletico Madrid this completes Sir Alex’s signings thus far this summer. Young, who looked as though he’d been playing for the club for years yesterday, created United’s first goal. Jones came on in the second-half and performed strongly on his début partnering fellow youngster Johnny Evans in central defence. De Gea made the mistake for Manchester City’s second goal but it looks as though the 20-year-old can make a real impact in England after admitting his games suits the English game. Danny Welbeck, Tom Clevery and Mame Biram Diouf have returned from successful loan spells in the Premier League plus with Federico Macheda returning from half a season with Sampdoria, this adds to the talented youngsters already at the club.
The squad already feels much stronger and larger than last season, even after influential departures including Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves. The midfield which was once seen to be lightweight now consists of Darren Fletcher, Antonio Valencia, Darron Gibson, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, Nani, Michael Carrick, Park Ji-Sung, Ryan Giggs and Anderson. Also with Wesley Sneijder recently quoted as saying “Inter need money and I’m for sale if there are clubs willing to pay the right price. I don’t know what my future is.” Could the play-maker be the finishing touch to this already strong squad.
The squad has a core of British players which is important for the development of future young talent while they also understand exactly what it takes to play in the Premier League and understand the importance of rivalries between clubs. Welbeck and Clevery both were called up to the England squad for the proposed friendly game with Holland along with team-mates Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Rio Ferdinand which can only further their development.
So as the new season approaches Manchester United look to once again be the team to beat with smart buys and dynamic young talent which are set to thrill on the biggest stage. If the Reds can improve on there league form from last season, title number 20 will surely be another addition to the clubs already impressive honours.
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