Ferguson delighted with Man. United's young stars

MANCHESTER: Sir Alex Ferguson enters a new year and new decade as manager of Manchester United confident the future of the club is in safe hands.

A new generation of young stars have been given their opportunities in the first half of the current campaign and Ferguson has promised he will retain his policy of using a relatively inexperienced side for the first leg of United's eagerly-anticipated League Cup semi-final with Manchester City next week.

Ferguson is confident the current crop of emerging talent is on a par with any in his 23 years in charge at Old Trafford, an impressive claim given the quality of young players associated with his club.

"I think the young players are doing well here," Ferguson insisted.

"Their progress has been good and they are getting their opportunities," said Ferguson, citing Wednesday's 5-0 thrashing of Wigan - a result that left the champions just two points behind English Premier League leaders Chelsea - as evidence.

"Danny Welbeck came on in our game against Wigan, Rafael was outstanding in that game and showed fantastic energy and desire to do well.

"(Federico) Macheda is unfortunately injured but we all know the qualities he has and (Gabriel) Obertan has joined the club and has fantastic potential, he is only 20 years of age.

"In the main, if they stay clear of injuries, they will be top players.

"It has always been that way here. We have always tried to bring on young players and I think we're good at it," added Ferguson ahead of United's FA Cup third round tie at home to fallen giants Leeds.

The recent performances of young right-back Rafael have been particularly eye-catching and with his twin brother Fabio, Ferguson predicts a day in the near future when United have two Brazilians in the full-back positions.

"That's a definite possibility, yes," said Ferguson. "We've always thought highly of Rafael, and his brother.

"Fabio is just coming back from injury and he will come in for the games now. I think the two of them are equally good, you couldn't separate the two of them. You couldn't separate the two of them in terms of their looks - it's impossible to tell the difference unless they're wearing numbers!

"But they are Brazilians and I don't think you need to give Brazilians any targets. They're always shooting for the moon."

As for Ferguson himself, the United manager - who turned 68 on the final day of 2009 - shows no signs of losing his own vitality or enthusiasm for one of the most high-profile jobs in sport.

And, in keeping with his policy since he announced his 'retirement' in 2002 only to change his mind, he is making no predictions about how long he will remain in charge.

"I hope my health is okay, that's for sure," said Ferguson when asked if he saw himself still at the helm in five or six years.

"Whether I'm managing (then), who can be sure? You never can be sure."