MANCHESTER: Alex Ferguson feels that his Manchester United squad are not even close to realising their potential despite the prospect of a second successive Premier League and Champions League double.
United have already won the League Cup and the Club World Cup this season, are overwhelming favourites to retain the Premier League and also have a Champions League final with Barcelona to come on May 27.
While Ferguson is delighted at his team’s current standing in the world game, he feels it is just the start for his current group.
This season has been notable for the contributions of some of United’s youngsters, with several teenagers making a big impression on Ferguson.
Brazilian full-back Rafael da Silva, 18, has made more than 25 appearances after arriving at the club last year, while Jonny Evans has shown himself to be a quality stand-in when Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic have been absent.
Italian striker Federico Macheda, 17, has come off the bench twice to score winning goals against Aston Villa and Sunderland that have effectively earned United four points.
Midfielder Darron Gibson, 21, and teenage striker Danny Welbeck have also made significant contributions.
Although Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are the elder statesmen of the United team, Ferguson feels his side are only going to get stronger.
He also has players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney who are only just starting to approach their peak yet are already among the world’s best.
The United manager feels that his experienced players have been key in bringing the youngsters through, and hopes to continue to use their influence.
But he also believes that his teenagers are already at a higher standard than Neville, Scholes and Giggs were in their teens.
He said: “This team has got a bit to go yet, it can go on to win many more titles and that’s exciting for me.
“The prospect of winning more titles with this team resonates with me far more than equalling somebody.
“More titles can mean anything, but this team is young enough to win more titles. I’m sure they can do it.
“We have a lot of young players in the squad now and that’s the healthy part.
“We obviously still have the dinosaurs like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville and we hope they can last another two years because the younger players will really benefit from that.
“It’s a very young squad and I’m quite excited by that. You can only try to think of what Giggs, Scholes and Neville were like at that age and they were still learning.
“But they had great potential of course. The likes of Welbeck, Macheda, Gibson and Evans, Rafa da Silva, they all have the potential.
“The level of football they are showing that potential is higher and harder then when Gary, Ryan and Paul came into the team.
“It’s difficult to equate the circumstances of the players, but Giggs, Neville and Scholes have elevated themselves into legends with their longevity, continuity of performance and achievement.” — AFP