Can the academy products orchestrate Manchester United's ascend among the elite?
Manchester United's appalling season was finally concluded on Sunday, after an embarrassing 2-0 loss against the relegated Cardiff City. This defeat summed up a shambolic ten-month period for the Old Trafford faithful.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a gigantic task ahead of him to restore the glory days of Man United. The upcoming few months are pivotal for United, as the manager and his bosses chalk-out a lucid plan for the club's future.
An injection of work-ethic and cohesion among players is the initial step in United's rebuilding project. Solskjaer has chosen a ruthless approach to repair the squad and anticipates a large number of departures.
The prospect of Academy reserves:
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces a tough assignment of luring the players who fit in his blueprint. The Norwegian should consider viable youth-team options who have impressed at the junior level.
Promoting academy graduates is an integral aspect of United's culture. Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, and recently Scott McTominay have used the opportunities to become significant figures in the first-team.
"Youngsters can inject a fantastic spirit into an organization and a youngster will never forget the person or organization that gave them their first big chance. They will repay it with a loyalty that lasts a lifetime."
The quote above is an excerpt from Sir Alex Ferguson's book- Leading. Sir Alex's unprecedented success at Old Trafford was down to his belief in the younger generations. The famous 'Class of 92' was the backbone of United's success in the '90s and early '00s.
Solskjaer is prepared to follow Sir Matt Busby's philosophy of believing in the youth as the current boss plans for next season.
United have tried the policy of recruiting the established players, and it has brought no success. Their recent failures have prompted them to nurture their prodigies. Keeping future superstars in mind, here are some names who should be promoted to the first-team next season.
The Dutch attacker recently won the Reserve player of the year in United's award ceremony. Tahith Chong is a versatile attacker, comfortable on either flank and in playmaking positions.
His natural dribbling ability combined with a nimble left-foot could be the answer for United's right-wing muddle. Jose Mourinho praised the youngster during last year's pre-season tour.
Physicality is the area Chong needs to improve but cameo first-team appearances indicate that the teenager is ready for senior football.
Mason Greenwood has raised his stakes immensely this season, scoring 26 goals in 29 games at the youth level. Such flair and goalscoring exploits have made him an instant fan-favourite.
Ole's team struggled for goals and the Norwegian might be tempted to use Greenwood's scoring pedigree as a number nine.
The England U-18 striker was named Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year and his positive display against Cardiff City points towards his bright future at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer termed James Garner as the 'next Michael Carrick' after his United debut in the Premier League against Crystal Palace. James is a defensive midfielder who dictates the play and produces telling passes through the lines.
The United squad has a paucity of midfielders due to a void left by Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera. Garner's contribution next season will aid Ole in sorting out his engine room.
The ex-U18 skipper lacks adequate senior-level exposure as compared to his peers Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes, but the leader credentials in James could turn Solskjaer's attention towards him.
Angel Gomes is one of the prominent names in the youth system and Solskjaer is aware of his potential. The attacking midfielder made his United debut two years ago at the age of 16.
He won the U17 World Cup, playing alongside Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, and Callum Hudson-Odoi. Angel has a terrific close-control on the ball and breaks the defensive line through swift passing and immaculate linkup play.
The English youngster penetrates into the opposition defence with his mazy dribbling ability and is blessed with a goalscoring instinct. Gomes is a typical Old Trafford player as he is capable of exciting the crowd with his craft.
Axel Tuanzebe has already spent a season with the senior players and went to Aston Villa last year for gaining valuable loan experience and regular game time.
The centre back made his United debut in 2016 during a friendly against Wigan. Jose Mourinho praised Axel's cameo appearance, saying:
"10 minutes is enough! The potential is there, you see it immediately."
Tuanzebe suffered an injury during his time at the Villa Park, still managed 29 caps for the Birmingham side. Manchester United need reinforcements to improve their awful defence and using Axel is a step in the right direction.
The Final Note:
United's transfer strategy has changed since Ole has taken charge of the club, with a focus on the players who are about to hit their prime.
However, the club has to evolve quickly and cover the lost ground in a short space of time because of a massive gulf between United and Premier League's top two- Man City and Liverpool. Teams like Everton, Leicester City, and Wolves are pushing for the top six spots.
Manchester United squad has to undergo a metamorphosis phase to compete for the titles. A cadre of youngsters could provide a stable platform for Ole to build his team for the future and Ole needs to guide the youngsters with the help of few experienced players.