Manchester: Sir Alex Ferguson is confident that Manchester United can stay the dominant force in English football despite seeing several seasoned campaigners retire recently.
Tottenham Hotspur visit Old Trafford on Monday and the north Londoners will be buoyed by the inexperience in Ferguson’s United line-up.
The retirements of Gary Neville and Paul Scholes last season, plus the increasingly peripheral role of Ryan Giggs, mean the famous United side from the “Class of 1992” is making the transition into history.
Those players, plus the likes of David Beckham, have been the bedrock of United’s astonishing success in the Premier League era.
However, Ferguson is philosophical about the change of personnel at Old Trafford and remains convinced that the Red Devils still have the strength in depth to compete.
“We are always aware players were coming to an end anyway, that’s been on the horizon for quite a few years,” Ferguson told reporters.
“You don’t want it to happen but it happens and there’s nothing you can do about it. Age catches up with us all.”
“We are confident in Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley coming back (from loan deals at Sunderland and Wigan respectively) and we were determined to get Phil Jones, from a way back, since last November.
“We have replaced the players who have left us.”
“At some point when the young players may hit a bit of a pocket, they will have enough experience in Park Ji-Sung, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher to augment the challenge we are after this year.”
One new player who has particularly taken to his new surroundings at United — and the pressure on him to succeed — is Ashley Young.
The England midfielder arrived from Aston Villa in the pre-season but already looks at home in the United line-up — even if his current role on the wing is at odds with his more usual central position.
“Ashley can play in different positions but I’m not saying it’s going to happen at the moment,” Ferguson added.
“He’s filling the left-hand side very well but there’s options to play him right or off the front.”
“The option to play him centrally is not looking great for him, though, with Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Dimitar Berbatov plus even Ryan Giggs can play there. So we’re looking more at the wide positions for him.”
Ferguson’s opposite number Harry Redknapp knows all about changing faces in a dressing room as he continues to battle to keep Luka Modric at the club following Chelsea’s sustained interest in the Croatia midfielder.
Yet Redknapp is also keen to bring new talent into White Hart Lane with striker Emmanuel Adebayor a likely arrival from Manchester City, while Lassana Diarra is also on his way to Spurs from Real Madrid.
“The chairman deals with that sort of thing at boardroom level,” Redknapp said in relation to a move for Adebayor.
“If anything’s going to happen, he’ll ring and tell me. I think it has been progressing along. It seems like it probably will happen but I am not 100 percent sure.”
United will be without Rio Ferdinand (hamstring), Nemanja Vidic (calf), Patrice Evra (knee), Javier Hernandez (concussion) and Darren Fletcher (virus), while Spurs are also struggling to put their best 11 out.
Wilson Palacios and Tom Huddlestone both have ankle problems, Steven Pienaar and Modric are struggling with groin complaints and William Gallas has a calf strain.