Since Jose Mourinho’s first official press conference as Manchester United manager there has been frenzied speculation as to when the mythical fourth signing will be confirmed. Paul Pogba is the name on everyone’s lips but the deal is becoming more and more protracted.
This big shiny nugget of sparkly transfer gossip has us all drooling at the Old Trafford entrance waiting for confirmation. At the same time the club’s exit door is flapping back and forth like the opening of an old western saloon during a bar room brawl as the new sheriff in town turfs out a posse of young players.
Nick Powell has joined Wigan on a free transfer, Joe Rothwell has gone to Oxford United for an undisclosed fee. There are others like Ashley Fletcher and Tyler Reid expected to be confirmed as sold within hours. Fletcher is the pick of this bunch but looks likely to leave the club without ever really getting a chance in the first team.
Mourinho ridiculed the claims that he doesn’t give youth a chance, pointing to the list of players he has promoted from various academies, when speaking to the Independent earlier this month.
“How many minutes do we have? I am ready for this. How many players in the academy do we have? Do you know? 49. I have promoted 49 players from the academy.
“Sometimes you promote players because you don’t have a chance. You have so many injuries you don’t have a choice. That is one factor. The second factor is when you are not playing for big targets.
“My record for injuries is very, very low. From the Champions League studies, my teams had the least injuries in the whole of Europe.
“In every season I have managed, I was fighting for the title. It was never a position of stability. I brought through 49. We are talking about big players, players in the Euros. One lie repeated many times, sometimes looks true but it will always be a lie.”
Of the 49 players on that list Alvaro Morata is probably the biggest success but many of them have only a one or two appearances under Mourinho to their name. Another factor that slightly skews things is the number of academy players at Chelsea who were brought in from abroad, for example Lassana Diarra and John Obi Mikel are two of the players on the list.
United too have plenty of foreign imports in their academy. The cream of young talent from around the world is in the English academy system simply due to the money on offer. Surely some are bound to break through.
The potential is there, but is Mourinho willing to take a risk unlocking it? The young players leaving would suggest not but a better indicator may be the players already embedded in the first team. Mourinho’s use of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford in particular will clarify his intentions.
Rashford burst onto the scene from nowhere last season and has shown real quality and mental resilience. He’s the type of player Mourinho would previously have overlooked but has earned his stripes rapidly under the old regime. The young striker could serve as the barometer for Mourinho’s policy on youth next season.
Stephen Vaughan, Pundit Arena