When the “José Mourinho to Manchester United” stories had (mercifully) tailed off a bit, everyone assumed it was because it was basically a sure thing not worth repeating. Not so, in fact.
The emergence of youth team players, particularly the goalscoring exploits of 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford, has undoubtedly been the highlight of an otherwise disappointing season for the Old Trafford. Moreover, it has rescued manager Louis van Gaal, whose position was looking increasingly untenable before embarking on the recent run of form they’ve been on.
This morning, the Mirror are reporting that the club are so enthused with the new generation of youngsters that the club have been pushing through that they are prepared to reevaluate their plans to replace the Dutchman with Mourinho this summer in their bid to reclaim their place at Europe’s top table.
The report claims that the Old Trafford hierarchy have now reverted back to their original plan of letting van Gaal see out the final year of his contract before being succeeded by assistant boss Ryan Giggs in 2017.
The higher-ups at the club are worried that the arrival of Mourinho would spell the end of young players such as Rashford or Cameron Borthwick-Jackson being given a chance in the first team – and for a club that has had at least one homegrown player included in every match for almost eight decades, it would go against the club’s ethos to neglect their youth squads in such a way.
Despite having arguably the finest youth team in England, Chelsea’s young stars went unused by Mourinho and the very real danger is that the exact same would happen at Manchester United.
It was a culture van Gaal was familiar with – and having blooded the likes of Xavi at Barcelona and Thomas Müller at Bayern, not to mention the vast majority of the Champions League winning Ajax side of the mid nineties, it was something he was keen to bring with him to Old Trafford:
“We discussed young players in my interview.
They [Woodward and the owners] said what the culture of Manchester United is and why they wanted me. One of the reasons was that I give young players a chance, as we are seeing.
“When you have me as a manager, you have a lot of chances.”
It would seem that Manchester United have a decision to make. In fact, the decision was always there but recent events have made it far more intriguing.
If they go with Mourinho, the days of the squad being full of homegrown talent are over. He is the ultimate short term manager – nothing past the immediate is of any concern to him. They might have some success, but with the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson dead set against the appointment, it also has the potential to cause ructions in the Manchester United boardroom.
On the flip side, the original plan remains a massive risk. It certainly a romantic idea that Ryan Giggs would bring through the next generation of youth stars to conquer England, as he experienced as a player in the mid nineties, but modern football is a brutal business – romantic dreams are crushed into dust more often than not. His lack of experience would make it a major gamble for the club.