26 August 2011

Mancunian Myths Again

Honestly, Alex Ferguson is a buffoon. Look at him today, expressing his delight at how as many as eight United players could wind up being named in Fabio Capello's squad for England's Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales:
'It is fantastic. The FA may realise who has produced more players for their country than any club in the world. Maybe they will get some joy from it and realise how important we are to England instead of treating us like shit. I am pleased for the players. They are outstanding.'
Let's not even get into his persecution complex and instead concentrate on looking at his claim about the contribution Manchester United makes to the national team.

I really don't have the time to trawl through the history books on this one, and one might make a serious case that English players are often formed in their teenage years, when they may well have represented their country at youth level, but let's for now just take Ferguson at face value, by focusing on current English senior internationals, and ask ourselves -- honestly -- how many of them were 'produced' by Manchester United. 

If you look at the squad Capello picked for the match against the Netherlands that had been due to be played on 10 August 2011 -- the match that was cancelled because of the riots -- you'll see that of the twenty-five players, twenty-two had already played for their country. Fancy guessing how many of those twenty-two had been United players at the time they made their debuts?


Sure, Danny Welbeck was contracted to Manchester United when he made his senior debut, but he'd been on loan to Sunderland for several months before that. For what it's worth, here's a breakdown of the teams players had been playing for when they earned their English shirts :
  • 4: Everton -- Rooney, Lescott, Jagielka, and Baines
  • 3: Aston Villa -- Barry, Milner, and Young
  • 3: Manchester City -- Hart, Richards, Johnson
  • 2: Bolton --  Cahill, Wilshere (had been on loan from Arsenal)
  • 2: West Ham -- Ferdinand, Carrick
  • 1: Arsenal --  Cole
  • 1: Charlton Athletic --  Parker
  • 1: Chelsea -- Terry
  • 1: Middlesbrough -- Downing
  • 1: Newcastle -- Carroll
  • 1: Norwich -- Green
  • 1: Southampton -- Crouch
  • 1: Sunderland -- Welbeck (on loan from Manchester United)
Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Tom Cleverley haven't yet made their senior debuts for England, but all three have been named in Capello's provisional squad. Of these it'd be preposterous to say that Jones has been 'produced' for England by United, given that he was with Blackburn until United paid £17 million for him about ten minutes ago, and even captained England's under-21 side as a Blackburn player. That leaves Cleverley and Smalling, both of whom could fairly be said to have been 'produced' by Manchester United, and neither of whom may yet take the field.

There's not much of a case here to say that United produces any players for the English national side nowadays. But then, given that they hardly produce any for themselves, this probably shouldn't surprise us. The Premier League is a rigged game, where a handful of teams, rolling in money, are able to use their ridiculously fat wallets to buy players that other teams have developed -- often to a point where they can represent their countries at senior level -- and then use them to maintain their dominance. But then, I've said all this before.

Update: Having scrolled over breakfast through Wikipedia's list of England internationals and looked elsewhere, it seems that the last time somebody earned an England shirt while playing for Manchester United was April 1999, when Wes Brown managed it. Since then three players contracted to United have played for England, all earning their first cap while on loan to other teams: Kieran Richardson was playing for West Bromwich Albion when he earned the first of his eight caps in May 2005, Ben Foster was on loan to Watford when he earned the first of his four caps in February 2007, and Danny Welbeck was on loan to Sunderland on the only occasion thus far that he has played for his country, that being in March of this year. Hmph.


Tom said...

Fergie may take credit for having so many of his players on the team but I don't see him accepting the blame for England's poor performance over the past decade or two... or does he think the reason is because they should have had MORE of his players?

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

Well, yes, there's that too. This does cut both ways.

The whole issue about clubs 'producing' players for their countries fascinates me. I can't figure out the last time anyone a Manchester United player made an England debut, given that I don't think it's fair to count Ben Foster or Danny Welbeck, both of whom had earned their selections on the back of the form they'd reached playing for Watford and Sunderland.

Certainly, nobody who's played for England in the last twelve months first did so as a United player, and nobody in the 2010 World Cup squad did so either.

So when was the last time one of Manchester's reds earned a white shirt? It surely can't have been 1999, can it, with Wes Brown?

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

Wow. I've just checked. It was. I shall update the text!

Anonymous said...

"I really don't have the time to trawl through the history books on this one..."

LOL- you mean don't let the facts get in the way of a good headline?
If you think it's a 'Mancunian myth' then prove it, instead of just picking an arbitrary time period that suits your argument.
Steve, Manchester.