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Manchester United: Age is more than just a number!

Age is a factor more complicated than just signing high potential wonder kids in your FIFA video game. In most cases, balance is the key to success. Assuming the proper personnel are present at the club when the energy of younger players and the experience of veterans come together, you get good results. But there are exceptions to the rule. When you look at the semifinalists of the Champions League, you see both young sides like Monaco and older sides like Juventus. Where does Manchester United fall in the spectrum and what does this mean for their future and transfer window plans? Let’s take a closer look.

Note: Players are listed by position in order from youngest to oldest (for same age in years, alphabetical by last name). All ages are in parenthesis and accurate at the time of publishing; Friday 5th May 2017.

Goalkeepers: Joel Pereira (20), Sam Johnstone (24), David De Gea (26), Sergio Romero (30)

Average Age: 25 years old

A bit of a faulty stat considering Pereira and Johnstone are not quite yet up to par with even Romero. Though Johnstone has put in some good performances for Aston Villa whilst on loan, the gap between Premier League and mid-table Championship is rather significant. Nevertheless, age is usually only an issue with goalkeepers once they reach mid-thirties. If David De Gea were to stay as long as Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus, I hope he can find the Italian legend’s fountain of youth.

Defenders: Regan Poole (18), Axel Tuanzebe (19), Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (20), Luke Shaw (21), Eric Bailly (23), Guillermo Varela (24), Phil Jones (25), Daley Blind (27), Matteo Darmian (27), Marcos Rojo (27), Chris Smalling (27), Antonio Valencia (31), Ashley Young (31)

Average Age: 24.6 years old

United’s defence has been the most injury hit area this season, but at least we have plenty of depth in numbers to cover, including the likes of promising youngsters Poole and Tuanzebe. Despite not having many memorable moments with United, Varela has played a part in Eintracht Frankfurt’s DFB-Pokal cup run this season, injury curtailing that for him. Even established players like Bailly and Smalling still have time to get better, time will tell if it happens.

Midfielders: Timothy Fosu-Mensah (21), Andreas Pereira (21), Adnan Januzaj (22), Jesse Lingard (24), Paul Pogba (24), Ander Herrera (27), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (28), Marouane Fellaini (29), Juan Mata (29), Michael Carrick (35)

Average Age: 26 years old

Even when considering Martial and Rooney as midfielders as well as forwards, the lack of depth when Manchester United plays with 5 midfielders is concerning. Carrick still puts in solid performances despite advancing in age, but whether or not he’ll be back next season is up in the air. The likes of Lingard and Herrera have snuck up on us, with many fans thinking they are younger than they actually are. That may be a sign that their development and contributions will become necessities rather than luxuries next season.

Forwards: Marcus Rashford (19), Anthony Martial (21), Wayne Rooney (31), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (35)

Average Age: 26.5 years old

The attacking department has both ends of the age spectrum. I feel most fans are quite happy with this group aside from Wayne Rooney. Signing another young striker this summer would not hurt in case the veterans Rooney and Ibrahimovic move on, but so far Rashford has lived up to the hype.

Overall: The squad averages out to roughly 25.5 years old. If you discount some of the fringe youth players, it goes up about a year or so. But that’s still about average if not slightly below average for a big club.

Verdict: I think we have a good variety and as long as we keep some of the veterans like Valencia for as long as possible, the youth will continue to grow well and become leaders in their own right. Age appears to be the least of the issues at Manchester United. The bigger challenge is hanging on to our key players and polishing the hidden gems. A challenge that can become easier if United win the Europa League this season, and follow that up with a more convincing Premier League and possibly a UEFA Champions League run next season.

Written by Ivan Ornelas

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