Monday, November 29, 2021
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The latest football news from 90 Minutes Online

Louis van Gaal’s Fountain of Youth

LVG thumbs up (courtesy of van Gaal’s faith in young players is unparalleled in the modern game. For all the criticism he has received, the Dutchman is securing his legacy and the club’s future by blooding many of Manchester United’s future stars.



A couple of weeks ago, over the course of four days– a Europa League tie against Mittelland and the Premier League game against Arsenal – van Gaal gave debuts to five players from the Manchester United Academy. Tim Fosu-Mensiah, James Weir, Regan Poole and Joe Riley all made their first team bow alongside the most prominent of all, Marcus Rashford.


This is an exceptional number within a short space of time, particularly given these were two games that actually matter – the knockout phase of a European tournament and a key game in the race for fourth place.  


All told van Gaal has given debuts to 14 youth players since he arrived at United less than two years ago. These include Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Andreas Pereira – as well as the substantial playing time afforded to the blossoming Jesse Lingaard.  


Of course the wealth of opportunities available to these young players is in no small part due to the roll call of injuries that have afflicted United since van Gaal’s took over, something that is often attributed to the coach’s rigorous training methods.  


However, this belies the fact that van Gaal has always operated with youth development at the forefront of his mind. This summer he shipped out his former Dutch captain, Robin van Persie, and gave the green light to the signing of Anthony Martial.


At 19 years old the French forward was struggling to hold down a starting berth in the Monaco front line – van Gaal assured the Manchester United hierarchy that the striker would play a significant role within his squad.


In previous roles at the major European clubs he has managed – Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern – the Dutchman has been responsible for giving senior debuts to Andrés Iniesta, Xavi, Carles Puyol, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, Rafael van der Vaart, David Alaba and Thomas Müller.


If even one of United’s current crop of prospects goes on to reach this level van Gaal’s faith will have been justified.


Perhaps this is one of the reasons why in the face of insipid performances, poor results and ensuing supporter unrest, United’s hierarchy have proven staunchly intransigent on his future. For all his failings, Van Gaal is the greatest proponent of Manchester United’s commitment to a youth system and the nurturing of home-grown talent.


Which again may explain why there has been a reluctance within the club to move to secure a coach who will almost certainly guarantee silverware in José Mourinho.


The Portuguese is noted for having never played a defining role in developing young talent, preferring instead to slot expensive, fully formed recruits into his squad in his unrelenting quest for victory.



Manchester United fans may be harking after the short term success that Mourinho almost certainly guarantees, but it is van Gaal who is currently securing the long term future of the club.  

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