Manchester United youth stake first-team claim on world stage
Manchester United have a rich history of blooding their youth players into the senior set-up from an early age, and latest Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal evidently inherited that expected approach in his maiden campaign at Old Trafford, but there could be a lot more to follow.
Top of the youth pile stands several promising academy graduates that have enjoyed personally successful international spells so far this summer, including Brazil Under-20 attacker Andreas Pereira and England Under-21 forward Jesse Lingard, who could feature heavily next term (5/1 with Coral to win PL).
Despite having no silverware to show for their efforts, both United prospects have flourished for their countries, with Pereira impressively helping Brazil reach the Under-20 World Cup final in New Zealand, while Lingard shone brightly in an otherwise bleak England side under Gareth Southgate.
Talented attacking midfielder Pereira looks to be improving with every outing for club and his chosen country, having been born in Belgium, incredibly scoring a sensational solo goal in the Under-20 World Cup final to equalise against Serbia, but he was eventually on the losing side.
The promising 19-year-old gracefully jinked his way past four helpless defenders before clinically finding the bottom right corner and giving the Serbian goalkeeper absolutely no chance.
Pereira’s solo brilliance was followed by a mobbing by his international teammates, with the Red Devils youngster visibly driven after his effort, possessing a look of determination and possible relief, declaring afterwards that he is ready to fight for a first-team place at his club (12/1 for FA Cup win).
“Yes, it is about breaking into the first-team squad. After that, I have to work hard to get into the first team and, following that, we will see.” stated Pereira.
“I can play on the wing or in midfield. It is just a case of wherever the manager asks me to play, I will play. I think I could be a good attacking midfielder.”
Pereira’s talent is undeniable, and his gifted attacking attributes were given the ultimate stage to shine on last season, albeit very briefly, under the guidance of Dutch boss Van Gaal. The Belgium-born attacker was handed his Premier League debut in a 3-0 win over Tottenham last March and committed his long-term future at Old Trafford by penning a three-year a month later.
Like his club teammate, England Under-21 international Lingard is seeking a further chance in Van Gaal’s first-team, having struck a superb volley to give his country their only win of a disappointing European Championship campaign in the Czech Republic.
“I’ve always wanted to play for Manchester United and that’s still my ambition. I was unlucky to get injured at the start of last season and I’ll never know where I would be now if I hadn’t got that injury,” he stated.
“Scoring goals like this can only help. It gets your profile up and other teams see you as well as Manchester United. It can only be good for me. I kept in contact with Louis van Gaal last season and spoke to the Under-21s manager [Warren Joyce] a lot. He was guiding me and giving me confidence.”
Life under Van Gaal instantly looked bright for Lingard as he was handed his top-flight debut on the opening fixture last term, but injury halted any immediate progression. Although, the 22-year-old then spent the back-end of last term on loan at Derby County, where he netted twice in 15 appearances.
Both Pereira and Lingard’s chances of securing a regular first-team position could depend on their performances in the upcoming pre-season tour, in which Van Gaal has stated he will implement an abundance of youth so they can showcase their abilities.
Although, with United constantly linked with a host of new world class stars, couple with the arrival of Memphis Depay, the Red Devils youngsters may face an even tougher task of convincing their demanding boss they deserve a first-team spot, a challenge which Adnan Januzaj faced last season.
The Belgium international winger is regarded as United’s next big Old Trafford star, but was limited to just 18 league outings last term, a scenario caused by the £60m arrival of Angel di Maria and resurgence of Ashley Young.
This current crop of United starlets are facing a stern test of claiming a coveted senior squad position regularly, and could face even more competition as long as the summer transfer window remains wide open, but there is certainly no doubting their credentials.