ManUtd.com spoke to manager Alex Ferguson about the pair’s talent, and their chances in the future United team.
“They’ve done exceptionally well, the lads on the YTS apprenticeship. We look at the ones in the second year to see who deserves contracts. Their ability has to be rewarded. We’ve tied Luke and Lee up for four years, knowing that they’ll be United players,” claimed Fergie.
And of their chances for future glory, the Boss reckoned, “They have the ability to be in the first team frame within the next couple of years. The next question is one of temperament, and if we give them a chance, and at United we have a good record of giving them a chance.”
But what qualities did Fergie spot in the youngsters? “Lee is capable of playing as both centre-back and full-back. He’ll be a very good player in either position. He’s strong, quick and has a terrific attitude to the game. I don’t think it will matter where he plays.”
And Luke? “He’s got time, that’s the most important thing. We’re not desperate to push him into the first team. He’s still a big gangly boy, with a frame to fill. That may take a couple of years. But he’ll be a good player.”
The United youth system is famous for producing the stars of tomorrow. But with David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt, the emphasis seems to have been on attack rather than defence. That’s something that Fergie refutes. “We’ve brought defenders through the ranks pretty well over the last few years. We’ve had a real clutch of quality centre-backs like Wes Brown, Ronnie Wallwork, Andy Duncan and Pat McGibbon."
"It was very difficult to give them all games, but fortunately we’ve been able to sell on. Pat McGibbon to Wigan, who’s doing very well there, Andy Duncan’s doing well at Chesterfield, Chris Casper’s doing well at Reading. The work we’ve done with them here has shaped them for careers with other clubs.”
Luke and Lee have had a great couple of weeks. Just before the offer of contracts, they were both named in the England Under-18 squad. Unfortunately, the game was called off because of a frozen pitch at Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park ground. Fergie is sympathetic to their feelings, but knows it was the first call-up of many. “I’m sure they were disappointed when they were called up for their country only to have the game called off because of ground conditions. Their chance will come again, and I would think the call-up will have boosted their confidence.” Remember where you heard their names first!