Arsenal's kids must be judged on trophies: Fergie
Sir Alex Ferguson has declared it will be medals and trophies that decide whether Arsenal's youngsters are better than Manchester United's.
The Premier League's top two go head-to-head at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow with the country eager to see how the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Eboue and Emmanuel Adebayor measure up to Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani.
While Rooney, and particularly Ronaldo, were the stand-out stars last term, Fabregas is the one excelling this season.
The 20-year-old Barcelona graduate has already reached double figures in goals for the campaign and appears to be improving by the week as Arsenal continue their impressive start.
But, as Ferguson has always reinforced when asked to assess his own talented youngsters' contribution, youth can bring mistakes.
It is only with maturity that authority and consistency can be relied upon. And, for the Scot, it is only at the end of an individual's career rather than the start, that their true talent can be assessed.
'Time will tell over Fabregas because he is young,' observed Ferguson. 'It is the same with my players. You have Ronaldo, Rooney, Nani, Anderson and Carlos Tevez who all have their future in front of them.
'In two or three years' time I want to be saying, 'They are the best in the world'. At this moment in time they are showing those signs.
'But it is very important to look back at what they have won. Can they win a European Championship? Are they playing in World Cup finals? These are the periods you have to add up.
'It is what Johan Cruyff, Pele and Maradona had to endure in terms of how highly they were rated.
'That is the challenge for all these young players and they must always be judged in that way.'
Although he found another player of potential at Barcelona in Spain Under-21 international Gerard Pique, Ferguson is honest enough to admit Fabregas had escaped his own radar.
However, having lured Ronaldo to Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon as a teenager and now done the same with Nani and Anderson, Ferguson is clearly not averse to placing his faith in youth.
As with most things though, the Scot feels time must be spent assessing each player's character.
'Judgements are made over a period,' he said. 'There can be no knee-jerk reactions or quick decisions. When you are spending money on a teenager you have to be sure of certain things.
'Do they have the temperament to handle that fee? Is there more development in the player because some do peak very early?'
Ferguson confirmed United were monitoring Nani's progress even when Ronaldo was being signed in 2003 while, with Anderson, who impressed for FC Porto in a pre-season encounter in Amsterdam mainly memorable for the double dismissals of Rooney and Paul Scholes, a risk had to be taken on the 19-year-old's recovery from a broken leg.
'We did a lot of work on Nani and Ronaldo helped with background information,' revealed Ferguson.
'In the case of Anderson, there was a risk factor because we saw him in pre-season and then he broke his leg.
'There was a decision to be made about whether we should wait for the boy to come back when the whole world could be after him or the fee could be higher, or to do it immediately. We felt the risk was worth it.'