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Is it time for revolution or evolution at Manchester United?

After finishing second to both Manchester City and Chelsea in the Premier League and FA Cup respectively, it’s obvious that Manchester United need to improve over the next few months in order to mount a more convincing challenge next season.

The summer transfer window has become a playground for journalists, social media ‘experts’, and fans alike, with seemingly a new player linked with the Red Devils every day. The excitement of hearing that ‘X’ player could be wearing that famous red shirt next season is often enough to send Twitter into overdrive for day.

You could perhaps then be forgiven for thinking that a club’s success is based purely on who is brought in and who is shipped out during the close season. Is this really the case though? During the final weeks of the season, the manager himself stated that this is going to be a summer of evolution, rather than exorbitant spending.

The emergence of Jesse Lingard and (re)emergence of Ashley Young reinforce the idea that shelling out on new talent isn’t always the best course of action. While admittedly Ashley Young is getting on in years, especially for a player in a position which requires the agility of a younger player, he has been a revelation at left-back for the last few seasons. Lingard was deemed not good enough by many fans during both Moyes and Van Gaal’s tenures, yet was one of the team’s stand out performers last term.

During his speech at the 2011/12 end of season award ceremony, Sir Alex Ferguson spoke of how developing talent is a part of the club’s DNA. He said:

“We invest in young players. That is what we are good at – we’re not like other clubs who can spend fortunes on proven goods. We know that City are going to spend fortunes, pay stupid money, pay silly salaries and all that.”

Even during the current era of infatuation with big-name signings, this remains an important part of who Manchester United are as a club.

Scott McTominay is the most recent product of the youth system to come through the ranks, having joined the club aged just eight-years-old. Jose Mourinho clearly rates the young midfielder, naming him the Manager’s Player of the Season during the end of season award ceremony. The midfielder perhaps isn’t a first team regular, nor a standout performer, however, he has stepped into the team with the composure that players approaching retirement have failed to display.

There are also players within the squad that could yet become world beaters. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Ander Herrera are among the obvious, but the likes of, Andreas Pereira, Tahith Chong, and Angel Gomes could yet emerge as important first team players if given the opportunity to excel. After all, this is the United way, right? The signing of high-profile players doesn’t always work out either, and could risk the development of existing prospects – the Scholes/Pogba dilemma comes to mind.

The challenges facing the Red Devils aren’t entirely dissimilar to those facing Sir Alex following the 1994/95 season when United finished runners-up to Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers. The following summer, along with a select few new signings, the manager opted to give chances to a number of youth players – David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, and the Neville brothers.

It was undoubtedly a risky move, but what followed were some of the best years in the club’s history, spearheaded by this new generation of talent.

I’m not advocating that United don’t strengthen the squad this summer. The signing of Fred is looking increasingly likely, and I’m sure he’ll bring another dimension to the team. The concerning thing for me is that many of the names being linked with United are short-term fixes given their age or injury records.

With the right balance of revolution and evolution, the future could be far more exciting than the instant gratification that modern football has succumbed to.

Written by Oli Gibbons

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