One of the worries Manchester United fans have had towards Jose Mourinho is his attitude to youth and getting used to the way things went last season with Louis Van Gaal playing youth, giving them a chance, criticism was huge as his record it’s not something he is proud of. We remember well the concern he had in his first press conference as United manager, knowing that somehow this would be brought by the media to harm him even more.
August was a hard month in the terms of numbers in the academy, at our Reserves especially, as we saw Ashley Fletcher, Will Keane, Donald Love etc leave and join other Premier League clubs. Another surprising name was the one of James Weir, the former Reserves captain who completed his transfer to Hull City on deadline day. We definitely are aware of the struggles the Reserves have during this season and only a few names have caught the eye of the manager at the time.
The problem is obvious, fans want him to play Rashford and Martial but this would leave Mata and Mkhitaryan on the bench, and once again they are not happy, giving us the right to suppose that you can never satisfy fans, especially a fan base like ours. Academy fanatics are worried that youth won’t get enough chances and the youth prospects at the club will be left in the shadow, with no first team minutes and soon to leave the club like others have done.
Sam Johnstone was sent on loan while Joel Pereira got back from his work loan spell at Belenenses, however unlucky as he got injured, leaving space for Dean Henderson to get back from his successful loan spell at Grimsby Town. The youngster featured a few times in the Team of the Week in League Two. Sergio Romero may be a second choice who soon may leave and these two can fight for the place, with David De Gea indeed a first choice at the club. The Portuguese stopper made his Manchester United debut in the FA Cup game against Wigan, boosting his confidence, trying to give him a clear message that the player is in his plans and for anyone who has watched him in the Reserves team or has had the chance to watch any of his performances for the Portuguese side, Joel Pereira is one for the future. We cannot forget to give a shout to Kieran O’Hara as well, who has been proven key to the Reserves side this side, pulling some great performances, being the bright spark in a poor team that is still struggling to sort things out.
Another United youngster who made the debut against Wigan is Axel Tuanzebe, a top youth prospect, who recently signed a contract extension with Manchester United until 2020. The player was really excited:
“I have always been a Manchester United supporter so I am naturally delighted to have signed a new contract. To make my debut at Old Trafford in the FA Cup was a very proud moment, both for me and for my family.
“I am learning every day in training and it is also a great experience for me to now train with the first team. I would like to thank all of the coaches that I have worked with and I would especially like to thank the manager for giving me my debut for this great club.”
The manager said the best words about him as he did mention Tuanzebe in the pre-match press conference to make his United debut scene and he kept his promises and got him minutes in the first team. Praising him, here’s what the manager had to say about him:
“Axel is a young player with great potential. We brought him up to the first team to give him more experience and he has adapted really well. I am pleased that he has signed a new contract and I am delighted with the progress he is making.”
Timothy Fosu-Mensah differently from his other teammates has had a few chances in the first team last season, while only has managed to get just a few minutes this minutes. Naturally a centre defensive midfielder, Fosu-Mensah is seen as Mourinho an option in the right-back position. Always looking forward to impress, a player of his age needs minutes to show what he can do and Mourinho gave him the chances in the right time.
Looking into the players’ situations it’s safe to say that we need to trust when it comes to youth. Seems hard, but we surely can. Out of the names out there who have made their debut under the tenure of Jose Mourinho we can mention Alvaro Morata who is now a vital part of Real Madrid. Mourinho did say that he has a huge future ahead of him and look at him now. he might be sitting on the bench much to Zidane’s stubborn idea of trusting Benzema as otherwise, he would start every game. Yet, this is Manchester United and not Real Madrid, so things will always change. Academy products at Real Madrid can be sold easily, while at United things are always thought when it comes to the decision-making in the youth ranks, but how exactly?
This month two important players from the youth side, Sean Goss and Joe Riley left the club permanently and on loan respectively. If the reader has been cautious to the latest news mentioning Goss, he/she may have heard that the 21 years old player was compared to Michael Carrick, also being pointed as his successor, but he left the club to join Queens Park Rangers. Was I disappointed by the news? Sure, but I didn’t blame Jose Mourinho for selling him. If you have a look at the team right now, besides Michael Carrick, we have Bastian Schweinsteiger and Marouane Fellaini who are there to compete for a place in the Starting XI. Where would that leave Goss? It’s probable that he would still be at the Reserves, getting furious of his side for not being good enough. Sean needed guarantees, something United couldn’t offer to him and at his age, he needed to play. So, in here, we see another controversial thought regarding Mourinho, from one side people love Carrick and Bastian, looking forward to see them play, but they wanted to keep Goss at the team as well. That would be unfair to the youngster, who in the end of the day, wants to become a successful footballer and this cannot happen, if he doesn’t play.
Coming to the big questions, the issues of our current first team players, Mourinho certainly needs to clear things up in here. As far as I am concerned, Mourinho has his own plans for Marcus Rashford and despite the lack of minutes, things look really well as Mourinho wouldn’t bother to start him, showing that he trusts youth more than anything and the energy coming from them. Yet, things change when it comes to Martial. Mourinho feels he isn’t doing good enough, yet he is a great finisher and his pace tears apart the opponent, but nothing has changed in their relationship. The Mourinho treatment is working, and Martial is so desperate to play. Second to Zlatan Ibrahimovic when it comes to finishing the opportunities Mourinho needs to think that the player might be solution.
It’s true that Martial doesn’t count as a homegrown player but his young age may affect Mourinho’s opinion on him, and that’s why I am concerned about the way things are going. Yet, we may say that the manager what’s best for the team and settling three or four youngsters as potential first team players. Considering the talents we have currently on loan, how exactly is Mourinho destroying the youth at the club? Fans need to understand that Jose Mourinho is not a specialist in failure like Arsene Wenger, who acts like the U23’s manager and not the real manager of the first team. That’s the difference between them and in here our fans should remain calm that the likes of Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong, Indy Boonen, O’Connor have a future at the club if they try hard enough. As Rio Ferdinand once said about Marcus Rashford, now is valid for every player of our youth teams: “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough”.