Including Marcus Rashford, Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has given seven academy players their debut this season.
Rashford was one of five players to have received debuts in the same week and former Manchester United striker Louis Saha has been impressed with what he has seen.
Speaking with HT ahead of the Manchester Untied v Arsenal match on February 28, Saha was all praise while speaking of Rashford’s Europa League debut against FC Midtjylland two days prior in which the young forward scored two goals to ensure United qualified for the round of 16.
“I’m impressed with what I have seen with Rashford for scoring two goals. But not just that, he got the team out of trouble because we were not favourites at some point of the game and he went and did what was asked of him,” said Saha.
United’s injury crisis this season has fast-forwarded academy players into first team action and many have been a hit just like Rashford.
When asked what he thought of the academy players who have made their debuts this season, Saha said, “They have all shown character, first of all, just by breaking in to be part of the squad. And being in a squad where the team is not playing as well as you would expect, makes it even harder.”
United were mulling over building a mini-stadium for youth teams; along the lines of the 7,000-seater arena neighbours Manchester City utilizes for matches played by their youth teams. But earlier this week, United announced that the plan was put on hold for the time being.
While players like Rashford continue to develop in United’s youth system, Head of Academy Nicky Butt, who was a United youth product and took up the post last February, described his new role as “a privilege” and “a big challenge”.
While United have always enjoyed a strong youth system, cultivating players for their first team, there has been growing concern over the scouting and recruitment of players because some of the area’s better youngsters have opted to train in City’s youth facilities over United.
“I think there may be an issue and there are people raising a question in terms of the academy but I’m sure that they are working really hard. The market has been harder than in previous years to look for players who can really bring something different and add value to the team,” Saha said when asked about the players coming in.