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Manchester United continue their youth legacy under Jose Mourinho

Whilst players, managers and staff members may come and go, there are certain philosophies that are simply embedded within football clubs, that are expected to be met no matter what the circumstances. At Manchester United, this specific philosophy relates to the policy of growing players through their own academy and then giving them a chance on the senior stage.

This philosophy is simply part of the club’s DNA, as through iconic eras such as ‘The Class of 92’ and also the ‘Busby Babes’, many of United’s greatest ever players simply started their footballing journey off as a young prodigy, desperate to prove their worth in the Red Devil shirt. In fact, United’s youth products have not just been beneficial for their own club, but for the game itself. Through producing the likes of, George Best, David Beckham and arguably through the modern example of Paul Pogba, many United products have gone onto influence the game of football itself, on a much larger scale.

Evidently, this youth policy has certainly become an established expectation within Manchester United, as both fans and the board voice their demands of wanting to see academy players being provided with the chance to prove their worth on the big stage. This was, however, the one worry when Jose Mourinho took over the club last year, as he does carry a rather unwanted reputation of not favouring towards the selection of youth players in his sides. Nevertheless, this worry has soon been put to bed, as United actually topped the leadership board of Premier League minutes granted to their academy products during the 2016/17 campaign.

Most specifically, there were actually 35 players who once represented United at youth level, which featured in the Premier League last season. Although some names such as Darren Fletcher and Micheal Keane heavily contributing to this statistic, there is no denying that Jose Mourinho has granted opportunities to younger players. With youth products such as Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford, all being consistent starters in United’s own side, perhaps United’s topping of this list doesn’t come as much of a surprise after all.

Whilst this statistic may provide as just a comfortable seat for Mourinho to sit on, to silence his critics about him not trusting the youth, we have in fact seen a genuine change in Mourinho’s own policies, to adapt to Manchester United. The likes of Pogba and Rashford would, of course, be starters for nearly all Premier League sides and whilst this, therefore, downplays some aspect of the ‘selection of the youth’, there are many other factors to highlight Jose’s new ways.

Perhaps, the best example to prove this is through Axel Tuanzebe. The young defender was trusted on his Premier League debut against Arsenal and most specifically to man-mark Alexis Sanchez, a game where he certainly showcased his mature defensive ability. The inclusion of Tuanzebe on the pre-season tour, alongside the likes of Scott McTominay, Demetri Mitchell and the Pereira brothers (Joel and Andreas), all clearly highlight the fact that Jose has an open approach towards rewarding the best performing academy players. The involvement of these players during the pre-season friendlies could suggest that many of them are set to feature amongst the senior competitions, this coming season. These younger players certainly look keen to follow in the footsteps of so many others, who started their journey in the same position as they find themselves in today.

Written by Joshua Gmerek-Iftakhar

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