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Mourinho made for Man Utd: Claims of ignoring youth talent a myth

COMMENT: The only question Manchester United's decision makers need to address over the Special One's credentials is whether they can be confident Jose Mourinho will be happy sticking around long-term.

There's been plenty of push back from United identities against the prospect of the Real Madrid coach succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson due to his apparent lack of faith in young players.

But a quick study of Mourinho's work over the last two seasons would show him being more courageous in backing local talent than Fergie himself.

There's no surprise for fans of Davide Santon that it's taken him a matter of weeks at Cesena to catch the eye of Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. Mourinho recognised the fullback's talent at Inter and threw him into the first team - despite the pressure of chasing down title glory.

It was only after Mourinho had left that Santon found himself frozen out - first by Rafa Benitez and then also by Leonardo. But a loan move to Cesena and just a handful of first team games sees Santon again enjoying national team status.

It was also Mourinho who introduced Mario Balotelli to big time football. The Portuguese took heat from local pundits over his strict man-management of the striker - but when you consider the carry-on now at Manchester City, there's few who today would doubt the motivation behind Mourinho's methods.

The Special Juan's backing of youth has continued this season at Real Madrid.

Alex Fernandez, after first being identified by Mourinho in preseason and taken to the US, made his Real debut earlier this month in the win at Racing Santander. Before him, another member of that preseason American tour, Alvaro Morata, has also tasted senior action this season, while Mourinho has no qualms counting on goalkeeper Antonio Adan as cover for Iker Casillas.

Pablo Sarabia and Jorge Casado are others from the Castilla to be introduced by Mourinho this season - all the while competing head-to-head with Barcelona for the Liga and Copa titles.

In contrast, United manager Ferguson hasn't introduced any local lad to regular first team football over the latest two years. The closest would be Ben Amos when Ferguson's goalkeepers pool was hit by injury. Amos apart, Ravel Morrison has had a chance and Darron Gibson is quietly establishing himself, but United's other young players are imports like the Da Silva twins or big money buys such as Chris Smalling.

So the argument that Mourinho would somehow ignore the youth traditions at United just don't add up. Indeed, the evidence is that Mourinho believes in a local core being the cornerstone of all his teams.

Instead, when the time comes to considering Mourinho as Ferguson's successor, United directors need to be satisfied that he will be committed to the job long-term. Three years at Chelsea appears a marathon in Mourinho's managerial career, but it won't be what United will need entering a new, post-Ferguson era.

Focus on the academy and attacking football (just look at Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo's scoring record this season) can be expected from a United managed by Mourinho - the one doubt is whether he will provide the stability Old Trafford will need after 25 years of having the same face in the dugout.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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