This post could create a lot of controversy, so I want to make it clear that I don’t have anything against foreign players per se. Many of the United greats have been from beyond these shores, and I revere them as much as anyone else.
That said, I have always been proud that United has had a core of players from the British Isles (note that’s worded carefully enough to include the Republic of Ireland). United are an English team, who have always placed high value on local talent and team spirit. I need scarcely draw the comparisons with the other big sides:
– Arsenal – are and have been for many years (since the likes of Adams, Dixon, Keown etc began retiring) made up almost exclusively of foreigners.
– Chelsea – bought in a load of players, some English and some not, with a trend towards foreigners (particularly Portuguese, like Carvalho, Ferreira and flops such as Tiago) under Mourinho.
– Liverpool – still value their “local lads” like Carragher and $tevie Mbe, but Benitez has brought in a load of Spanish and Spanish-speaking players (Torres, Alonso, Mascherano, a few random Brazilians, Luis Garcia and others who have now left).
An all-British Isles team
To illustrate, let’s look at the best all-British Isles teams that each of the top 4 can put out. In fact, let’s not bother with Arsenal, because it’s not realistic. And actually, scrap Liverpool too because the only players there are Carragher, Finnan, Gerrard, Pennant and Crouch.
Foster; G Neville-Brown-Ferdinand-O’Shea; Fletcher-Carrick-Hargreaves-Giggs; Scholes; Rooney; subs: Simpson, Eagles, Cathcart, Welbeck, Heaton
Now that’s a pretty strong side, and we can even find some subs to put on the bench. I’m actively proud that we can put that team out.
[no keeper]; Bridge-Terry-[no CB]-A Cole; J Cole-Lampard-Sidwell-Wright-Phillips
Not much cop – even ignoring the gaps, where are the goals coming from?
So, on the one hand, the core of our team is still British Isles-based at present (Neville, Rio, Scholes, Carrick, Rooney). On the other hand, the majority of our recent signings have been Portuguese / Portuguese-speaking, which is Queiroz’s influence. I’m talking here about Nani, Anderson, the twin full backs and Manucho, together with all the links to any decent Porto or Sporting Lisbon player.
I would really like to to carry on trying to buy the best of British where possible alongside the top class foreigners (think Rooney, Rio, Carrick, Foster and Hargreaves), whilst at the same time bringing through our youth players (current alumni Scholes, O’Shea, Brown, Fletcher, Giggs and Neville). Bring in top drawer foreign players, but don’t look overseas for the sake of it, or just because Queiroz finds it easier to coach those who identify with him.
Apart from the “British players for a British league” point, on a practical note we’re likely to get better value in the long run for British Isles players. Players like Ronaldo and Tevez are going to want to go and play in the continent and in their homeland eventually, whereas Rooney and Rio will commit their entire remaining career to United. Think about Keane, Giggs, Scholes, Neville and others who played either all or the vast majority of their careers for us. To anyone who wants to accuse me of being prejudiced against foreigners, bear this in mind. Do you think we’d have been so good for so long without this unbelievable loyalty from our core squad?
The other impact of this view is that I firmly believe that our next manager should be from the British Isles – one who is going to view United as the pinnacle of their managerial career and (if all goes well) be with us for 25 years, not someone who might, for example, be tempted away by the Portugal national side in three years time. United are the top team in the top league in the British Isles, and I think we should always act like it.
End uncharacteristic rant. Try not to flame me too hard.
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