Aaron Ramsey can be the next Fabregas says Arsenal legend

Welsh Arsenal legend Mel Charles says his compatriot Aaron Ramsey can play a key role in Arsenal s big clash at Old Trafford on Saturday – and in the Gunners engine room for years to come. Charles watched Ramsey score the fourth goal in last weekend s 4-1

Welsh Arsenal legend Mel Charles says his compatriot Aaron Ramsey can play a key role in Arsenal's big clash at Old Trafford on Saturday - and in the Gunners engine room for years to come.

Charles watched Ramsey score the fourth goal in last weekend's 4-1 win over Portsmouth as the former Cardiff midfielder capped a fine 45 minutes after replacing the injured Cesc Fabregas at half time.

And if the Spanish skipper is ruled out with a hamstring strain for Arsenal's first match of the season against one of their 'big four' opponents, Ramsey could be given the chance to slot into his playmaker role, providing he comes through Wednesday night's clash with Celtic unscathed.

"The boy Ramsey is doing very well and seems to be progressing just how Arsene Wenger will have liked," Charles, 74, tells Ham&High Sport.

"There is a Welsh bias, of course there is, but he is still a very talented boy and seems to be at ease playing with so many great players at such a massive club - and he should feel comfortable, because he is a great talent.

"He's just starting out but I like the fact he seems to have an old head on young shoulders -that was a lovely timed run and finish for the goal against Pompey last Saturday.

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"I would have no problem giving him a start at Manchester United this Saturday - in fact, seeing what I've seen, I'd suggest the boy would absolutely thrive on the situation.

"I actually have a feeling that Wenger is already grooming him to replace Fabregas, if he goes back to Spain in the next couple of years."

Charles, who scored 26 times in just 60 outings for the Gunners between 1959 and 1962, says the whole of Wales is desperate to see their players make it big in the Premier League - and Ramsey could be the biggest Welsh star of the lot.

"For his age he is magnificent," smiles Charles. "We've run out of Welsh stars in recent years, which is a shame when you think of the lads we have had in the past such as Ian Rush, Neville Southall, Ivor Allchurch and, of course, my dear late brother John.

"I hope that Aaron is one of many for the future. Frankly, with his talent and temperament, I can't see how he'll fail.

"And Arsenal haven't changed since I was a lad playing there 50 years ago - they're a massive club and there is nowhere better I'd want a young lad to learn his trade."

Charles spent three injury-interrupted years at Highbury under manager George Swindin after turning down Chelsea and Tottenham.

While he had to watch as Bill Nicholson's magnificent Spurs side won the Double in 1961, he maintains he has no regrets about moving to the Gunners.

"I remember it well," recalls Charles, whose excellent autobiography, In The Shadow Of A Giant, was released earlier this month.

"I was playing snooker in my old club in Swansea and the managers of the three big London clubs all appeared at the top of the stairs, looking to sign me.

"I chose Arsenal because I liked the club and what it was all about. Maybe I should have signed for Spurs as they were much better than us at the time, but I didn't and I have no regrets.

"Well, I have one; that those wonderful Arsenal fans didn't see the best of me - they were always so encouraging and never booed even though they had to watch Spurs dominate at the time. I had a cartilage taken out of my knee and because I cost so much - a British record at the time - there was pressure on me to play when I was injured.

"I was never the player I should have been at Highbury. But I still did ok. Half a century on though, I still have a limp because my knee has never been the same again. All I needed a good six to eight weeks rest, but I never got it."

Back in his native Swansea, he remains a huge Arsenal fan - and is desperate to visit the Emirates.

"The club stays in your blood, I'll always be an Arsenal fan. I'd love to run out on the pitch at the Emirates and have a kickaround, it's immaculate," he chuckles.

Charles says he is impressed with Arsene Wenger's methods - and believes a trophy is imminent.

"I love what that man has done for Arsenal and for British football. How can you not love watching Arsenal these days?" he adds.

"I still have a little bet on every Arsenal game, I even bet a pint on an Arsenal win with the barmaid at my local boozer. I win far more than I lose..."

And he believes he has a few more coming his way this season.

"The lads have started amazingly well this season and I believe they can really go that extra yard this year. They've been unlucky in recent seasons with injuries - and I know all about being crocked - and they still have lads like Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky to come back.

"I think this could be a great season with maybe six teams challenging at the top of the league, but I just have a feeling our time is coming - and with a Welshman doing his bit!