x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sir Alex Ferguson answers age-old question about experience

If Age UK, a charity to help the elderly in Britain, needed a poster boy for a new campaign they could do well to take a look at Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the longest-serving Premier League manager, has been at Manchester United for 27 years. Alex Livesey / Getty Images
Sir Alex Ferguson, the longest-serving Premier League manager, has been at Manchester United for 27 years. Alex Livesey / Getty Images

If Age UK, a charity to help the elderly in Britain, needed a poster boy for a new campaign they could do well to take a look at Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Manchester United manager is not only living proof of age being nothing but a number, but he has also helped numerous players extend their twilight years by a season or two.

Two possible summer arrivals at Old Trafford, according to reports, are Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.

Lampard, 34, will not be offered a new contract by the London club, while Cole, 32, is likely to join him in leaving having so far failed to agree a deal. The pair have both been told they are surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge.

They are both past 30 but neither is ready for the scrap heap just yet. If United do not follow up their interest, numerous high-profile clubs will.

The lure of Old Trafford will be a realistic chance for the players to add to their already trophy-laden mantelpieces, but Ferguson has proved he is adroit at extending players' careers.

Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand (likely to sign a new contract, on less money, to stay at the club) are currently reaping the rewards from Ferguson's elixir, but past beneficiaries include Teddy Sheringham, Laurent Blanc, Henrik Larsson and Edwin van der Sar.

Blanc may have had a few critics but he added a Premier League medal to his trophy cabinet. Sheringham, 30 at the start of his four-year stint under Ferguson, left with three league titles, an FA Cup winners medal and a notable Uefa Champions Leagues win.

Some teams are reluctant to sign veterans, none more so than Sunday's defeated opponents Liverpool, with resale value one of the issues.

Steven Gerrard, the Anfield captain, spoke of his admiration for United's mixture of old and young on the eve of the 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford. Talking to the Daily Telegraph, he said of Ferguson's decision to keep Scholes and Giggs at United: "If someone of his calibre - someone who's done what he's done in the game and with his knowledge - knows how important it is to keep hold of those players it tells you how important experience and top pros are."

It is an opinion that Liverpool, Chelsea and the like would to well to listen to.

Ferguson signed the 29-year-old Robin van Persie on a four-year deal in the summer, and it is highly unlikely he will be sold, if ever, for more than the £24 million (Dh142.8m) United paid.

But he will repay the club in other ways - by giving younger squad members invaluable influence in training and putting trophies in the cabinet. And that is the value of experience.

cpyke@thenational.ae

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