They are almost ready - Solskjaer biding time before using youngsters in Premier League
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged Manchester United's youngsters to continue making the most of their first-team opportunities this season before unleashing them in the Premier League.
Academy products Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong were all named in a youthful United side for Thursday's 1-0 victory against Astana in the Europa League.
First-team regular Marcus Rashford also started but it was Greenwood who grabbed the headlines, the 17-year-old forward scoring the only goal of the game to become his side's youngest ever goalscorer in European competition.
Solskjaer has vowed to continue playing his young players in cup competitions with the aim of getting them ready for regular Premier League action.
"You learn quite a lot when playing the youngsters," he told Sky Sports. "You want them to go out and express themselves, to go out and perform so that have a platform to build on. I thought it paid off [against Astana].
"I understand that some of the boys, sometimes they can feel the heat, but I thought they were excellent. Of course, we must protect them, find the right moment to put them in. Give them guidance behind closed doors.
"They're almost ready [to play in the Premier League]. That's why they're with us, why they're training with us and they have done well in training.
"The young boys now - you will see them enough. You will see them in the Europa League, the FA Cup the Carabao Cup and maybe a little bit in the Premier League.
"If we do well in the Europa League we have a chance to win it. In the early stages you can take a few chances, take a few risks, make some subs and give the youngsters a chance.
24y 145d - The average age of Manchester United's starting XI against Astana is 24 years and 145 days; their youngest in a Europa League/Champions League game since December 2012 (24y 54d v CFR Cluj). Stage. #MNUAST pic.twitter.com/Korf5B6BG4— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 19, 2019
"I think it's about time they had some exposure to see if they are ready to play in the Premier League."
Solskjaer also reiterated that United are still some way off challenging Manchester City and Liverpool for the Premier League title as he continues to shape his squad.
"Aaron Wan-Bissaka is young and up-and-coming," he said. "Luke Shaw is young. Axel Tuanzebe is young - we have something to build on there. The foundations are being built from the back.
"I want to be a part of us going back to where we used to be, but of course the Premier League is now a different animal.
"Manchester City and Liverpool last season were fantastic and we are in the starting phase of a new team.
"Many players have been and gone and now there are some youngsters coming in. We are one or two players light at the moment because of injuries, but that's an opportunity for the kids to play and to see if I can get the best out of them."Modified 21 Dec 2019, 00:33 IST