Ever since taking over from Louis Van Gaal, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been under the microscope. Not only because he is the manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world, but also because of his well-known tendency to use more experienced players in his teams, at the expense of younger ones.
A good reason for that is also Man United’s famous Class of ’92 and there is a constant hope a generation like that one will soon come through the ranks at Old Trafford. While it is all nice and dandy to hope for that, it is not the easiest task. Expecting Mourinho to throw kids in his starting XI in hope of that happening isn’t very probable.
Spending Comes Before Youth
Since Mourinho’s arrival in Manchester, United have spent £297m on six players – this summer have arrived Victor Lindelof, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic – while Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined on a free transfer. When something like that happens, it is hard to expect many youngsters knocking on the door. Still, due to great amount of games last season, Mourinho did give much more playing time to United’s under-21 players than it was expected.
Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay, Demetri Mitchell, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Joel Perreira and Josh Harrop were all part of the squad at some point. It is also important to remember that Marcus Rashford is 19 and falls into this category.
Mourinho’s use of youngsters during 2016-17 season showed his pragmatism once again. He started rotating more than usual at the point when Europa League became priority and the Premier League became the competition through which the Champions League will not be secured. It shows that even when Mourinho uses youngsters, it is for keeping his main players fresh, rather than develop the new generation of Man United players.
This One Is Not On Mourinho
And that is legitimate. While the Portuguese manager is not known for his best work with younger players, he is not obliged to use them. After all, including Man United’s academy players in his main squad will happen when their quality is higher. While Mourinho could use the likes of Mitchell, Tuanzebe and McTominay, he will not use them on a regular basis until they reach his expected levels.
— Marcus Christenson (@m_christenson) August 7, 2017
That being said, just because United have an academy, it does not necessarily mean it produces players good enough to fight for the starting XI. After all, this is a team eager to win either Premier League or Champions League. Barcelona could do that because their academy players became world class players. Bayern Munich could do that because Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger were the axis of their new team. After all, Man United could do that at the time when they were making incredible players like David Beckham or Paul Scholes.
It is not a big problem for United to loan six players by early August and release another one, as long as those players are not fitting requirements of the senior squad. The bigger problem is that Manchester United’s academy is not producing enough players good enough to break into the first team.
Marcus Rashford is an exception, but one that is proving the rule.