Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Who Will Be Reds' Wing Commander? ; Why the Time Is Ripe for Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia to Stamp Their United Credentials

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Who Will Be Reds' Wing Commander? ; Why the Time Is Ripe for Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia to Stamp Their United Credentials

Article excerpt

WHEN Sir Alex Ferguson drove to Torquay in June 1988 to personally rubber-stamp the deal for Lee Sharpe, the United manager made his intentions very clear.

Wingers have always been in vogue at Old Trafford and Fergie was going to be no different.

He persuaded United's hierarchy to shell out Pounds 200,000 for the 17-year-old who had played just 16 games in the league's basement for the Devon club.

It was a record fee for a YTS player and gave a clear indication that if the Reds boss was to create a dynasty then widemen would form a vital cog in his machinery.

Granted, five months later he did pay Pounds 150,000 for Ralph Milne, who has since gone down in folklore as one of Ferguson's more disastrous buys, but the intention was there.

Either by the cheque book or through the Old Trafford ranks, the United manager has created wonderful memories for Old Trafford fans with the introductions of a succession of wing wizards in Andre Kanchelskis, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Danny Wallace, Karel Poborsky and Jesper Blomqvist may not have been the major successes the Reds hoped they would prove, but again the idea behind the purchases was well meaning.

The current wing department of Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young have got their work cut out in proveing they are heirs to Giggs and Ronaldo, rather than the next Poborsky and Blomqvist.

Fortunately, none of them will be pigeon-holed with Milne when their Old Trafford careers are over.

But to reach the elite group of Hall of Famers, the current Reds wide men will have make significant improvement.

The last grains of sand in Nani's Old Trafford egg timer may already be slipping away.

Fergie has indicated that the Portuguese winger is now back in training and could be ready for selection again.

He has missed the last 14 matches as he battled the hamstring injury he picked up away to Braga in Portugal in the first week of November.

Speculation over his future was already rife with his inconsistency since signing for United in 2007 from Sporting Lisbon the biggest bone of contention among fans.

Arsenal are said to be keen to take him to the Emirates but Fergie has gone on record to say he won't be sold. …

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