Not quite shining lights at the end of the Louis van Gaal tunnel more like emergency exit doors as the tunnel crumbles around you. The magnificent youth prospects of Manchester United are the only thing worth talking about as Manchester United continue on their not-so-steady decline into mediocrity.
Their now imperative standing in the team is shown by the fact that the senior players have not contributed a single memorable moment this campaign. Wayne Rooney’s winning goal in Anfield won’t exactly be long remembered but it’s as close as they’ve come to delivering.
Now think about United’s real highlights this term. Anthony Martial’s debut strike undoubtedly takes top spot, the several brilliant moments of Marcus Rashford can’t be far behind. Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s emergence has been astounding as was Guillermo Varela’s and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s. Jesse Lingard’s goal against Chelsea takes it’s place on the list as I’m sure will Luke Shaw’s return on the hallowed turf of Wembley should United get there.
Just this season, United’s academy was labeled inadequate and incompetent by the media. Now there is still some systemic failures but to label it as anything but excellent is laughable.
Without the players developed in the academy, Louis van Gaal would be sunning himself somewhere and not complimenting Aston Villa’s defensive organisation. The most exciting part of this tale is that there’s plenty more where they came from. Axel Tuanzebe, RoShaun Williams, Ashley Fletcher, DJ Buffonge, Callum Gribbin, James Weir, Sean Goss and so many other very highly thought of youngsters are on a beeline for the first team. Their route only blocked by a certain Portuguese heir-apparent.
But the crown jewel of the academy is still a few years from breaking into the first team, Angel Gomes is one of Europe’s most sought after youth players. Those in the know are certain he will become a world star at Old Trafford. Aged just 15, he has starred for United’s Under-18 team and has been capped for England. A cousin of United flop Nani, he’s been at the club since the age of 7 and has impressed at every level.
But that’s all in the future. Back to the present and it’s time to dispel one of the most curious notions in football; “In fairness, he gives youth a chance.”
Fans and pundits alike have defended the Dutch boss with this absurd claim. But would Marcus Rashford ever have even played if Rooney and Martial hadn’t been injured? Absolutely not.
A similar situation arose in October when he had no options left up front. He decided to play Memphis out of position rather than try Rashford or Fletcher. He was forced into playing Rashford just as he was with every other player he’s given debuts to.
“He has a history of promoting youth” they add. “He promoted Clarence Seedorf and Thomas Muller” they cry. I’m sorry but if you’re a football manager and can’t spot the talent in Seedorf or Muller, then you’re in trouble.
But if Van Gaal’s record with youth is promising then I don’t know what you call Jose Mourhino’s. Throughout his career he has consistently neglected talented youth in favour of incompetent experience. The aforementioned group of rising stars will want nothing less than the reports of the Special One’s imminent arrival to be false. Their future is glaringly bright as long as they’re not smothered once more.