Is experience an irreplaceable commodity?

by Sam Peoples
No longer a player but always a Red. Photo: Saeed Khan (AFP Photo)

Now, all things considered I like to be as optimistic as any football fan can be but I find myself struggling to comprehend what could happen at United next season. We all know that experience can be as important to a football team as talent is, especially when it comes to the big games. Time and time again we have seen the likes of Paul Scholes come in to the midfield to inject some composure through experience into a team but this summer is seeing a shake-up of monumental proportions and United will be losing an astronomic amount of game experience in the players that won’t be playing for us next season. Is experience irreplaceable? It is a question that needs to be considered, even for the most blindly optimistic of United fans.

First of all, consider what we already know; Edwin Van Der Sar has hung up his gloves and ended his career appearances total on a respectable 265, the terrier that is Gary Neville closed the book on his illustrious United career in which he knocked up 602 appearances, the diminutive Paul Scholes that we all cherished ended his 17 year career with 676 appearances and even even though he didn’t make many, Owen Hargreaves still accounted for himself 39 times in a United shirt. In total, that is 1582 career appearances that have retired from United this season already and with more movement possible, it might not be the final figure come September.

Second of all, consider what could possibly happen; Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Darron Gibson are all strongly linked with moves away from United this summer and with 361, 393 and 58 appearances respectively between them, they total another 812 appearances. As well as this trio, Dimitar Berbatov could well be on his way out after the purchase of Ashley Young signals SAF’s intent next season to utilise a formation that doesn’t suit DB9 and since 2008, the Bulgarian has amassed 128 appearances. Long term second-choice goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak will also most likely be leaving after the purchase of David De Gea, leaving us with 61 appearances. If all of these transfers go through, yes it may well be unlikely but in all honesty it remains a possibility, then United will lose another 1001 games worth of experience.

A masterstroke from SAF is needed if the loss of experience isn't going to affect us next year

Now, if my calcuations are correct and all of this experienced is combined into one sum, then United could well find themselves down 2583 games of experience through player losses. Put into perspective, that amount of experience would fill up 68 full Premier League seasons, an astronomical loss. Could United cope with such a drastic loss all in one season? I think if any team in the Premier League could cope with it, then it would be Manchester United. Sure, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville will remain important figures in and around the dressing room at Old Trafford but on the pitch, they can’t do anything and it is no question who will be the most important figure if this loss of experience isn’t going to have a negative impact. Time and time again, SAF has re-built a squad that has come up trumps but if these transfers do go through and United can emerge as Premier League Champions next season despite such a big dent to the experience of the squad, then it would have to be considered one of SAF’s greatest master-strokes in his illustrious career. Only time will tell if United can cope with the losses but with SAF at the helm, it is hard not to remain as optimistic as ever.

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