Both Liverpool and Manchester United have a history of producing players from their academies which are capable of reaching the top level. Both of them also frequently opt to scout and buy young talent from afar, with a view to developing them into future first-teamers. With this in mind, I compared Liverpool’s best Under-23 XI with Man United’s best Under-23 XI (from the current first team squads – using the EPLIndex Tactics Board (Free to use for all)…
(NB: Buttner and Kagawa are both 24. There are not enough United players in the first-team squad who are 23 or under to comprise a full team. Make of that what you will…)
First and foremost, this is an entirely hypothetical article.
Obviously, there will never be an exclusively under-23 fixture between these clubs which feature players of this first-team calibre. This comparison is simply one method of looking at the young prospects of these two rivals and contrasting them.
As you can tell, I am a football nerd. The fact that you’re reading this suggests that you are also a football nerd. So let’s just enjoy the debate and not get into a keyboard-warrior-twitter-abuse storm which people are so fond of nowadays. Please.
Right, let’s have a look at these teams. My first thought here is that both defences are surprisingly strong. Kelly, Coates, Rafael, Smalling and Jones are all full internationals whilst the powerful Andre Wisdom has impressed this season. The sheer athleticism of the United back-line is perhaps proof of how the Premier League game is becoming quicker and quicker, although this is a debate for another time. Overall, I’d give United the edge here. The unproven Wooton and Robinson cancel each other out whilst Jones and Smalling – although injury-prone – appear to be more trustworthy than the shaky Coates and the sometimes erratic Kelly. On top of that, David de Gea is ridiculously good for his age.
It’s an entirely different story in midfield though, isn’t it? All three of Allen, Shelvey and Henderson have displayed their potential this season and I think it is fair to say that this triumvirate could compete with most Premier League midfields. On the United side, it’s a lot shakier. Powell and Tunnicliffe are both untested at the top-level whilst Cleverley is not the kind of player to dominate the centre of the park. Central midfield has been a problem for Ferguson for a few years now (not that he’ll accept it) and there doesn’t seem to be the immediate strength in-depth required should Carrick or Scholes face long-term injury. However talented Powell may be, it is too soon to put him in the same bracket as proven Premier League players like Jordan Henderson.
It’s very interesting up front, where Welbeck and Sturridge are both quick, skilful forwards who can hold the ball up well. I reckon it is pretty close between those two. Welbeck may play more games for England but Sturridge is more prolific in the league (for a worse team). I’ve placed Buttner on the left-wing here, partly because he’s left-footed and partly because I was running out of young United players who weren’t goalkeepers. I think it’s fair to say that Coutinho has done enough in his few games this season to say he has more potential (and ability) than a man who struggles to even make the United bench. Double-Bundesliga winning Kagawa would get in most teams ahead of 18 year-old Raheem Sterling, but the six-year age gap between the two certainly makes a difference and I’m sure a lot of Liverpool fans will be hopeful that Sterling is at or above Kagawa’s level by the time he is 24. He’s certainly heading that way.
Well, from the looks of those line-ups and my largely unexplained reasoning, I would say that, overall, Liverpool’s future looks brighter than United’s at the moment. I’m sure lots of people would disagree with almost everything that I have said, though. And let’s be honest, if Fergie needed to, he could always just go out and buy a proven player who can score 20-odd goals a seas… ah, yeah.
I would genuinely like to hear your thoughts on this. Who has the brighter future based on current squads? (Twitter account on profile below)
EPLIndex Tactics Board
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