Friday 26 February 2016

The kids are alright and the future's bright

Whatever becomes of Louis Van Gaal at United, there will always be that night when he threw an untested 18-year old academy rookie into the team ten minutes before kick-off and that same young man fired his side to an impressive victory that may have kept his manager in a job. 

United's 5-1 win over Midtjylland on Thursday offered a tantalising glimpse into the Old Trafford future as teenager Marcus Rashford capped a rapid rise with a dramatic debut.

It was a proud moment for the 18-year-old Manchester born striker as he scored twice to help United into the last 16 and 19 year old left-back Joe Riley also caught the eye on his first start.

The young full-back set up Rashford to put United ahead whilst his fellow full-back, Guillermo Varela (22) also chipped in with an assist on a night when the seeds of the Reds burgeoning youth setup came to fruition.

19-year-old Regan Poole came on for a late debut having been an unused sub in the first leg and 20-year-old Andreas Pereira was also handed a run-out in the Reds comprehensive win.

LVG has now handed a senior debut to 13 Academy graduates in his time in charge as Riley, Rashford and Poole followed in the footsteps of Donald Love, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Uruguayan Varela in making a first-team bow this term.

Axel Tuanzebe, James Weir and Sean Goss have also all featured on a first team bench during the season and United have now included at least one player from the youth system in their last 3,570 matchday squads - an incredible statistic.

It would have been easy for van Gaal to spend in January to bolster the depleted ranks during the current injury crisis, but for all the manager's critics his continuation of one of the club's great traditions will be his overriding Old Trafford legacy.

It's this faith in youth that has impressed the United hierarchy and is one of the reasons - if you believe the rumours - why Ed Woodward is reluctant to pull the trigger on Van Gaal.
Although his reign looks almost certain to end in the summer, the club's production line of homegrown talent is the strongest it's been in years. 

Of course, many players have come through the youth setup only to never make it at United (Federico Macheda being just one example).
However, during his illustrious career, Van Gaal has unearthed many a gem whom have gone on to become legends: Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids (when at Ajax) and Xavi (at Barcelona) to name but three.

The Dutchman knows a future star when he sees one and that can only be good news for United's future. 

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