Ferguson's kids are all right
Sir Alex Ferguson dug up an insult aimed at Manchester United from days gone by to turn his fire on those who dare to criticise Old Trafford's production line of young talent.
Alan Hansen's infamous "you'll never win anything with kids" line - uttered at the start of a season that finished with United winning the double in 1996 - has become a monument to the folly of questioning Ferguson's faith in youth.
The 67-year-old Scot dusted it off before this Carling Cup quarter-final with Spurs and gave it another airing in his progamme notes after United's emerging group of players were criticised following the Champions League defeat against Besiktas.
Ferguson relishes a fight and the final word. He got both as Darron Gibson's two crisply-struck goals sent a callow United side into the Carling Cup semi-final at the expense of a more familiar-looking Spurs line-up.
Darron Gibson hits the first of his two goals against Spurs
You knew the part played by the more junior members of the Old Trafford cast would give Ferguson that extra blast of pleasure, coming as it did in the aftermath of doubts being expressed about their pedigree.
Arsenal's glittering array of young talent assembled under Arsene Wenger is forever being showered in plaudits without actually winning anything.
It makes you wonder if Ferguson might just be a bit miffed that his devotion to home-grown players is often over-shadowed by the excessive praise lavished on Wenger's charges. He would have a point if he was.
At the risk of causing further consternation, however, this current batch of United rookies has a long way to go before they can even be spoken of in the same breath as the golden generation of the early 90s that yielded David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, the Neville brothers and Nicky Butt.
It was a rare breed, and it is hardly the fault of the new group that they are not yet in any position to even contemplate the deeds of their predecessors, some of whom were still on the United team-sheet with them at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
But there was enough promise in the performance of Gibson and his youthful cohorts to suggest Ferguson has once again picked a safe battleground on which to challenge those who doubt the health and success of his youth policy.
Ferguson was obviously badly stung to mount such a sturdy defence, writing in the programme: "I have to protect the future of Manchester United and that means, especially in these days of inflated prices in the transfer market, producing a steady stream of players."
And while much attention has focused on Federico Macheda and the Da Silvas, Gibson is one who has quietly come up on the rails to press him claims.
Indeed, Ferguson stated only in recent days that the day was coming when Gibson could not be held back any more - and his contribution against Spurs illustrated why.
The 22-year-old Republic of Ireland international scored two goals that demonstrated a precious talent, the ability to arrive on the edge of the area and strike to deadly effect. A powerful figure, he was also composed on the ball and put the lack-lustre Jermaine Jenas and Wilson Palacios firmly in the shade.
As Michael Carrick struggles to find his best form, he may find himself under more regular threat from Gibson, who, it is clear, has the trust of Ferguson.
Ferguson had encouragement in other areas, too. Danny Welbeck showed he has the raw materials to develop further and showed great awareness when linking with Gibson for his second goal.
Belgian defender Ritchie De Laet, just 21, got a rare outing and mixed some anxious moments with an outstanding block to stop Jermain Defoe as he looked poised to equalise.
Anderson, still only 21, was powerful and influential in midfield in a manner he needs to display more, while the lanky Gabriel Obertan, 20, presents an intriguing figure.
Obertan has real pace while one perfect cross, not followed in by a dawdling Dimitar Berbatov who should have had an easy finish, hinted at his promise. He has a tendency to over-do matters, but so did Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani when Ferguson bought them.
Ferguson will look for Obertan to develop into a bridge between Nani, whose progression appears to have reached a dead end, and the peerless Ronaldo. Not one or the other - just something nicely in between.
It all suggests a rich seam of young talent under Ferguson's guidance. But, at the risk of going all Hansen on you, only time will tell whether these kids win anything. The last four of the Carling Cup is at least a respectable starting point.
United's younger players needed the inspiration of a magnificent display from defender Nemanja Vidic to navigate them through early, choppy exchanges in which Spurs were superior without being able to take advantage.
Vidic was at his imperious best, making the vital challenges and snuffing out danger with a mixture of ideal positioning and physical power, illustrated perfectly when he literally brushed David Bentley aside to end one moment of danger.
David Bentley is left to ponder a disappointing night for Tottenham
For Spurs, this was a huge disappointment after the good impression they created in the draw at Aston Villa. Once United went ahead, they seemed to abandon all hope of ever regaining a foothold in the game.
It must have been bad. The normally chatty Harry Redknapp could not bring himself to deliver his thoughts to the written press in the traditional post-match briefing. He dispatched Kevin Bond, who explained his manager's absence by revealing: "I don't think he wants to come in here and say something he might regret."
Say no more. Or rather, don't say anything at all.
Spurs let themselves down badly, and it was a night of disappointment in particular for Robbie Keane, given his chance up front alongside Defoe with Peter Crouch on the bench.
Keane was never lacking effort, but there are still times when he looks a long way short of the player who left Spurs for an unfulfilling stint at Liverpool. It is to be hoped this gifted player regains his form and confidence.
In one interview Redknapp did give, he was moved to complain about the lack of atmosphere inside Old Trafford - an attendance of 57,212 meant there were almost 20,000 empty seats.
This may be considered a good gate for a game played on a soaking Tuesday night in Manchester, but there is no doubt there were times when there was an almost testimonial feel to proceedings, especially in the closing stages.
At no time did the environment give off the air of a cup quarter-final played between two real powers of the Premier League - and that is sad for a tournament gamely attempting to shake off its tag as a poor relation to the Premier League and FA Cup.
Silverware still means something, though, hence Ferguson's delight and Redknapp's disappointment. And for United's young players, it is the perfect stage for them to prove their manager has a cause worth fighting for when their quality is questioned.
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