Jul 212010

July 21 philly.com

On the surface the Union and Manchester United – who meet in an exhibition friendly tonight at Lincoln Financial Field – have more in common than one might think.

Sure, United – widely considered the New York Yankees of soccer – carry a larger payroll, more recognizable players and a global following that would make most rock stars jealous, but it’s the mentality of the two managers, Man U’s Alex Ferguson and Union boss Peter Nowak, that mesh.

Both are big believers in grooming young talent.

For Nowak, it’s always been the case, proof being in 2004 when he captured the MLS Cup in his first season as coach of D.C. United.

The average age of that D.C. squad? 25.2.

For Ferguson, the notion of younger is better has re-emerged with this current crop of Red Devils, which is the youngest United has had since 1995, when he bid farewell to Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelkis and former captain Paul Ince for David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.

Ferguson and Co. went on to capture multiple English Premiership titles and the elusive treble – EPL, Champions League and FA Cup titles – in 1999.

Just this week the Times of London spoke with Ryan Giggs, the tenured Welsh midfielder who debuted for United in 1991, but a part of its youth system since the late ’80s. Giggs sees a lot of that 1995 crop in the current “lads,” and thinks they have the chance to again prove Ferguson’s naysayers wrong.

“Last season we saw a lot of the young players featuring on the first team,” Giggs said. “I see their determination on the training ground.

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