Is Manchester United’s youth enough?
Will Manchester United's youth be the ones to return them to the top of the Premier League?14 February 2019 | James Evans
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Manchester United has been in a sort of transition for a while now. Following the era of Sir Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney, and to a lesser extent Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s been more or less understood that the club will need time to return to the top of the Premier League ranks with consistency.
However, midway through the 2018-19 season seemed to mark a sort of turning point within a turning point. Specifically, the sacking of Jose Mourinho following a poor start felt like the clearest indication yet of a look toward the future, rather than a grasp at current - and unrealistic - contention.
Football Today recently speculated that the game of football has passed Mourinho by, and this is becoming a difficult assertion to argue with. It’s still easy to imagine the manager catching on, perhaps with a smaller club, and finding success through his sheer and undeniable tactical brilliance. However, he is quite clearly not the man for a storied club looking to regain top position in the Premier League in an extremely competitive time.
As has happened at Mourinho’s other recent stops, a period of instant and perhaps overblown optimism immediately followed the sacking. Case in point, in mid-January Free Bets’ articles on football speculation suggested Man Utd. could potentially defeat PSG and go on to win the Champions League - at the time a possibility, but still a somewhat ludicrous suggestion outside of the heat of the moment. It was borderline unrealistic to suggest, yet it does convey the excitement and the optimism about the future that settled in among some EPL observers once the club was out from Mourinho’s shadow.
Feelings of optimism will only get you so far, however, especially at a club like Manchester United which, one could argue, has about as demanding a supporter base as any sports franchise on the planet.
The more important topic is the club’s youth, and whether the pieces are in place for a return to the top tier of the EPL. So - does Man Utd. have the goods?
Looking at some of the young standouts of the club leaves that an open question. One can’t pick out a group of players and say that they’re definitively the best youth collection in the EPL, or that they’re destined to propel the club back to the Premier League trophy. However, it’s also easy to look at the same players and see that they may well give Man Utd. a shot at renewed glory.
It starts with Marcus Rashford, who by any measure or analysis is one of the top young players in the EPL, and really all of Europe.
Still just 21 years old, the Man Utd. No.10 is the best talent the club has produced in some time, and unquestionably the most pivotal player for the future. Rashford alone gives United a strong outlook for the next decade, provided they keep him in place (and it’s difficult to imagine they won’t).
Names like Diogo Dalot and Scott McTominay also come to mind as future assets for the Red Devils.
Dalot is one of the few positives of Mourinho’s legacy at Man Utd., having been brought over from Porto before he turned 20, and he still looks to be one of the most promising under-25 defensive players in the EPL. McTominay, at 22, may not have the stuff of stars, but after signing an extension in January he’s clearly part of the future plans, and it’s only fair to note that he’s shown steady improvement as a professional. He projects to be a solid midfield piece and another part of a young core that will have ample opportunity to jell and form a formidable unit.
On an even younger level there is perhaps more exciting talent on the rise in United’s system.
Tahith Chong is arguably the most promising player in the system, at barely 19 years old. Currently a right winger, he’s a player supporters can’t wait to see making a consistent impact with the senior team, and one Mourinho was quite high on as well. Additionally, Angel Gomes certainly comes to mind. Having already earned the distinction of being the first player born in the 2000s to play an EPL minute, Gomes has appeared for the senior team, but has yet to hit a consistent stride at this level. When he does, he’s expected to star, and could conceivably be the team’s best player aside from Rashford in a matter of years.
Again, one can’t look at this group and say that Man Utd. is definitively set for a dominant run atop the Premier League. However, this group coupled with the club’s endless budget for acquisitions has to be considered promising.
And with Mourinho now gone and a clearer focus on future development, things are looking up.
Photo of Marcus Rashford via MUFC.
manchester united, epl, premier league