Ingrained into the DNA of Manchester United is the promotion of youth from within. In the modern game, youth academies are full of the hottest talent from around the globe all fighting for a spot amongst the ranks of the elite. Very few make it to the very top-level but Manchester United are known as a club who give opportunities to their youngsters. This season Joel Castro Pereira, Axel Tuanzebe, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard have all played a part, some larger than others, and all are from the young talent factory inside United (of course Paul Pogba could also be included here but his story is very different). One of the few positives to take from Louis van Gaal’s reign was his willingness to promote youth, though of course this was sometimes forced such as the case of Rashford being bought in due to last-minute injuries. Van Gaal gave debuts to a very impressive 14 United youth players but with the arrival of Jose Mourinho, this number was expected to decrease significantly.
With a reputation for bringing in top talent rather than looking within, some players had to consider their options with a number heading out on loan to increase their first team minutes in an attempt to impress the new boss and work their way into his plans for the 2017/18 season. Currently, six players are out on loan from Manchester United and with the summer fast approaching it seems like a good time to have a look at how they have done and whether it will be enough to keep them at the club next season.
First up is 23-year-old goalkeeper Sam Johnstone who went on loan to Championship side Aston Villa in January. At 23 he is the joint oldest player out on loan and will be coming into the final year of his contract over the summer. Johnstone is a familiar name amongst the United youth ranks and a regular on the loan circuit but got off to a rocky start at Villa coming under fire from some of the fans. He has made 14 appearances since joining and is a more settled figure at the club now. Considering his age Johnstone may wish himself to find more regular first-team football and depart the club this summer and with David De Gea and Sergio Romero currently filling the gap between the sticks there is unlikely to be much of an opportunity for him in a red shirt so my verdict here would be a move away from the club would be beneficial for all parties.
Joe Riley is the next player up. The full-back made his debut under Van Gaal but never cemented a place in the first team and headed out on loan in January 2017 to Sheffield United. He has only made two appearances for the League One club due to injury, of which he is still on the sidelines for. Despite always putting in a good shift during a match it is very unlikely that he will ever be up to first team quality. At the age of 20 he is certainly still young and could have a successful career but this is most likely to once again be away from the club.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson impressed under Van Gaal for both the length of his name and his performances for a player so young and inexperienced. His defensive work and ability to put the ball into the box with a sweeping left foot impressed fans around Old Trafford in what was a rather uneventful season. He was sent out on loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers who are sitting mid-table in the Championship with Mourinho deciding to use Darmian, Rojo, Blind and Shaw at left back this season. Borthwick-Jackson has not had the best time at Wolves and there was even talk of United recalling him from his loan spell earlier this season due to a lack of playing time and considering the Red Devils have had their problems at left-back, it wouldn’t have seemed like a bad decision. The young defender is still only 20 and with United having problems this season it would not be too surprising to see Mourinho keeping him around next season, although most likely as a bit part player.
Guillermo Varela was the first signing by David Moyes although he did not make a first-team appearance until the arrival of Van Gaal. After making a handful of appearances and gaining praise from the manager last season he was sent out on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt for the 2016/17 season but unfortunately, he sustained a long-term injury and at the age of 23 it is unlikely that he has done enough this season to warrant a space in the squad next term. With Mourinho clearing the squad of a lot of peripheral figures since his arrival it is possible that Varela will be joining those names.
Adnan Januzaj burst onto the scene for united in an explosion of confidence, pace, and trickery. Much was expected of the young Belgian talent and United fans immediately dreamt of him as a replacement for a slightly older left footed winger by the name of Ryan Giggs. Januzaj was not afraid to get at defenders and commit them and was always looking to be positive with possession, scoring two goals in his first start for the first team. Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons he has not pushed on and is currently experiencing a mixed season at premier league strugglers Sunderland. With a wealth of attacking talent currently at United and with more tipped to be arriving this summer, it is possible that Januzaj’s time at the club will be cut short. This is a shame as he clearly possesses immense raw talent and skill but it may be a question of the wrong time for him.
Finally, possibly the most exciting prospect to be returning this summer is Andreas Pereira. The 21-year-old Brazilian has always stood out at youth level but has failed to make an impression on the first team. Out on loan at lowly Granada in the La Liga the attacking midfielder has certainly caught the attention of many onlookers with a number of impressive displays. He has been vital to the attacking play of the team this season and has managed five goals and two assists in 29 appearances. Although this may not immediately seem impressive he is playing for a team with only 25 goals in the league all season. Pereira could certainly offer the United squad some attacking talent next season if given the chance and it would be brilliant to see his talent finally harnessed by the club but there is stiff competition in the attacking ranks so he would be wise to continue his good performances until the end of the season to earn the confidence of Mourinho.
Written by Jack Gadsden