No less an authority than Sir Alex Ferguson admitted as much only last Thursday, after he had watched his Manchester United side go dangerously close to throwing away a two-goal first leg lead against Ajax in the Europa League: the value of experience cannot be underestimated on the biggest stage.
With such a comfortable cushion to defend at Old Trafford, the Scot chose to give game time to some of his younger players against the Dutch giants.
As a result, his defence in particular looked short of big game experience, with his back four comprising Phil Jones (20), Chris Smalling (22), Rafael (21) and Fabio (21).
As Ferguson has proved, failing to get the blend right between promise and experience can have serious consequences, suggesting the new England manager should not be too vigorous when ridding the squad of ageing stars.
“I picked too many young players in the back four positions,” Ferguson said after watching his side lose 2-1 at Old Trafford. “It was a big risk I took.”
His reaction was telling: in came Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra for United’s game against Norwich on Sunday and the latter two in particular were instrumental in helping the Red Devils to a narrow 2-1 victory.
Again, Ferguson admitted as much, calling Ferdinand, Evans and keeper David De Gea “brilliant”.
But while the 70-year-old learnt his lesson it appears interim England boss Stuart Pearce has not been paying attention, with the former left-back’s first England squad for Wednesday’s game against The Netherlands containing only three central defenders – two of whom are Jones and Smalling.
The other, Gary Cahill, may be a relatively ancient 26 but he has only seven England caps, meaning England’s central defensive pairing will be short on experience whichever combination Pearce chooses.
And with Micah Richards (23) slated to appear at right-back and Joe Hart (24) in goal, it will be a young back-line even if Ashley Cole (31) appears in Pearce’s old position.
The danger, then, is that giving youth a chance against Dutch opposition will backfire for the second time in the space of a week and this certainly makes Holland good bets to win on Wednesday at 33/20 – particularly when this is the same price as an England win in bwin’s 3Way football betting market.
Of course, this is not to say that Pearce is completely misguided in his efforts to do away with some of the old guard and freshen things up with new players – after all, the John Terry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard era has hardly delivered, so why not try something different?
But as Ferguson has proved, failing to get the blend right between promise and experience can have serious consequences, suggesting the new England manager should not be too vigorous when ridding the squad of ageing stars.
Pearce has perhaps already been overzealous in this area and for that reason England look vulnerable on Wednesday against a Holland side who reached the 2010 World Cup final and boasting the talents of Robin van Persie, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben.
And should the same policy be carried out for Euro 2012, then Holland’s price of 15/2 to win the tournament certainly looks more appealing than England’s 10/1, even if the latter option offers the promise of bigger returns.
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