“ If they are good enough, They are old enough.” – Sir Matt Busby
This exact philosophy has been the cornerstone for Manchester United for nearly 75 years now, and it has reaped rich dividends for them. From producing the likes of George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton to the Class of 92, United’s undying faith in their academy and it’s players has gifted the world of football some of it’s greatest players. Since October 1937, the club has had at least one academy player in their matchday squad last, an astonishing record when you see that the same club has the money to buy an Angel di Maria or Juan Mata for multi-million pounds. Although this proud tradition has been continued even after Sir Alex retired in 2013, contrary to what many people thought, Manchester United as a club have been falling and falling hard ever since. The once-upon-a-time champions are now stuttering at sixth place on the table, knocked out of the Capital One Cup and Champions League and are on the verge of a Europa League exit at the hands of their eternal rivals Liverpool. Despite having sacked David Moyes and appointing Louis van Gaal and having spent well over 300 million pounds in the transfer windows over the past 3 years, the Old Trafford outfit is far from regaining their swagger. Under such circumstances, it is obvious for fans to ask how do things go back to being good again, and that question is as tough to answer as any. Even if Jose Mourinho does come in the summer as many media houses have suggested, how does he go about the job? Will he continue to give the youth a chance and help them mature? Or will he bring in a host of new, proven players to arrest the club’s immediate decline? Let’s analyze.
Any new manager who comes into a club needs time to get his squad together, and Mourinho won’t really be any different. Although he has had a penchant for buying ready-made players, he knows full well about how things are done here at United, having been linked to the job numerous times over the past couple of years, so he will probably analyze his younger players as well. Having age on their side is a boon these players have, they are not shackled by huge expectations and can play freely, as Marcus Rashford showed recently. The 18-year-old was brought on as an emergency, due to injuries to Rooney and Will Keane, and he went on to score 4 goals in 2 games, including a brace against the mighty Gunners. On the flipside, however, these youngsters are immature and easily prone to rash actions, as Memphis Depay showed with that foolish trip on Nathaniel Clyne against Liverpool on Thursday night.
David Prutton, a Sky Sports analyst, said this recently about the performance of the youngsters who were handed debuts over the past few weeks due to injuries to regular first team members, “It’s a good reflection on the youth policy, and you would like to think it rejuvenates the fans moving forward to think the future is rosy. Why not blood the kids through? They get to know the atmosphere at Old Trafford, they get to know what it’s like to play in proper games for United, and it bloods them for the future”.
Here I list 5 highly rated youngsters from Carrington, who can be expected to carry forward the Manchester United Way
1. Andreas Pereira ( Age 20 )
The Brazilian midfielder has been one of Manchester United’s hottest prospects in recent years, and he made his bow in the 4-0 defeat the Red Devils suffered to MK Dons in 2014. However, that loss is not a reflection of Pereira’s true ability, and it is actually slightly surprising to see him not making more appearances this season. He recently signed a deal to keep him at the club until 2018 after much speculation about his future.
2. Timothy Fosu Mensah ( Age 18 )
Manchester United signed this defender from the Ajax academy, and if he can reach his potential, then they will get a real player in their hands. Fosu-Mensah is able to play centrally in defense or in the middle of the park.
The 18-year-old made his starting debut against Watford, after making his first appearance off the bench against Arsenal.
3. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson ( Age 19 )
The fullback, who made his under 21 debut at just 16 years of age made his first team bow this season against West Bromwich Albion and has featured regularly ever since. The energy the youngster brings on the left side, and his pinpoint crosses and overlaps have been missed ever since he took the knock on his knees.
4. Sean Goss ( Age 20 )
Goss was key to the under-21’s winning the side last season with coach Warren Joyce describing him as ‘dependable’. The midfielder is still awaiting his senior debut and looks set to be the next big thing.
5. Axel Tuanzabe ( Age 20 )
The defender is known for his physical presence at the back, and he has been involved in the matchday squad for the senior side after he earned a place on the bench for the clash with Crystal Palace.
Apart from these five, there are also the likes of Joe Riley, Regan Poole and James Weir, all buzzing and eager to impress the fans and the Gaffer. The club also invested heavily in the 19-year-old Anthony Martial and 21-year-old Memphis Depay last year, was the duo cost more than 60 million pounds. These two have been blowing hot and cold all season, but both of them have incredible potential, so that is another thing the Manchester United hierarchy has to keep in mind. The question which then rises, immediately, is whether or not these youngsters can justify the hype, and whether Mourinho, who looks certain to replace the Dutch manager in the summer, will place his faith in them. Although the likes of Tom Cleverly, Danny Welbeck, and Adnan Januzaj, all attracted great attention from fans for their ability, yet they fizzled out, and the first two have now left the club for greener pastures. As for the crisis which United now face, it is natural that they will look for quick-fire solutions, and probably invest heavily in the summer again. It will be interesting to watch how this particular scenario pans out, but as a United fan, I hope we can return to the old days soon, where youngsters were brought on under the knowledge that their senior teammates have already settled the match, and they could continue to play freely and develop properly.