Capello enthralled by United youth

Capello enthralled by United youth

Published Aug. 28, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

Fabio Capello is mesmerized by the new wave of Manchester United youngsters he sees as central to England's pursuit of glory at the 2012 European Championship.

Only on Friday morning, United manager Alex Ferguson complained that The Football Association did not appreciate England's reliance on his players.

But Capello has only admiration at how Ferguson regularly, and so successfully, revamps his squads and is now thrusting a fresh crop of young talent into the Premier League champion's starting lineup.

The Class of 2011 has enjoyed a perfect start to the season, the latest win against Tottenham on Monday produced with a side with the average age of 23.


''Sir Alex surprised me what he did,'' Capello said. ''He changed the team completely ... the talent is incredible. When you find the talent, you need to use it.''

Defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling as well as midfielder Tom Cleverley and striker Danny Welbeck are all under 22, but are establishing themselves as United and England regulars.

''All these players are playing really good,'' Capello said. ''They are improving. The game they played against Tottenham was really important ... they played with confidence.''

Take Jones, the 17 million-pound (then $27 million) signing from Blackburn in June who could eventually displace Rio Ferdinand from central defense for both club and country.

''So young, so good,'' Capello said. ''He is a really good talent for England.''

Capello hopes Jones develops like another 19-year-old: Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who started last season as an England outsider but now seems assured of a starting spot.

''Wilshere started to play with Arsenal, well, better, better, better (last season) and after four months he was at the top,'' Capello said. ''I understood he was ready to play with the national team ... Jones is a talent like Wilshere, he is a player who has played well at every level.

''He always wants the ball. It is not easy to find a player who is so young that can play with so much confidence.''

Jones' international experience has been limited to the under-21s and while he could make the squad on Sunday for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria on Sept. 2 and Wales four days later he is unlikely to start.

The 21-year-old Smalling was bought by United in 2010 as a center back but impressed on the right against Spurs.

''He has improved a lot, he is also playing with confidence,'' Capello said. ''When he goes forward he doesn't play with fear. I remember him as a center back. Now he is right back. He is a really interesting player in this position.''

The 20-year-old Welbeck, who scored in the 3-0 win over Tottenham, will be hoping he could link up with Wayne Rooney with England after being his strike partner on Monday.

''He is really interesting, he matches Rooney very well,'' Capello said. ''The movement without the ball. He made some mistakes in the first half (against Ghana in March). He missed a lot of passes, but he is an interesting player. Now I need to choose the player who will play with Rooney.''

Welbeck will be competing with Darren Bent, Jermain Defoe and Andy Carroll to become Rooney's England strike partner.

''I need to choose the players who are in the best form - not the name, the form,'' Capello said. ''You need to run, you need to press, do something different.''

In midfield, the 22-year-old Cleverley missed out on his England debut this month when the London riots led to the Netherlands came being called off.

Cleverley, who spent last season on loan at Wigan, had been selected as injury cover, but both Wilshere and Steven Gerrard are still sidelined.

''He is interesting because he is intelligent on the pitch,'' Capello said. ''He can play in front of the back four, as a midfielder or a forward. Always he tries to go to the goal.''

For Capello the advantage of selecting younger players is their recovery time, which could be key going into Euro 2012.

''Young players find their form very quickly. Some old players need more time,'' Capello said. ''A player like Rio and the others, need more games ... when you play at the World Cup or the Euros, you need talent with energy.''

First England must qualify for Euro 2012. The Three Lions are top of Group G, but only ahead of Montenegro on goal difference.