Even the most avid Louis Van Gaal fan would struggle to reel off a list of things he has got right during his time in charge. It is no secret that his near two years in charge, this season in particular, has been dire to say the least but, if there is one thing that he certainly is not guilty of, it is sticking to the club tradition of blooding youngsters into the first team squad.
The more skeptical of us may believe that this is due to the squad being unnecessarily thin whilst LVG himself claims that he deliberately scaled down the squad in order to bring in youth players. Whatever the truth is, recent weeks have seen some much improved performances on the pitch, with the recent emergence of Marcus Rashford proving to be the real highlight.
In truth, the writing was on the wall from the very beginning of LVG’s tenure, having included Jesse Lingard and Tyler Blackett in his very first matchday squad in 2014. Since then, a further 12 academy players have made their debuts for the club, with some of those beginning to become a regular presence around the squad.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, at 19-years-old, looks like he has massive potential and has recorded some steady performances within the back four this season. Tim Fosu-Mensah made his debut as a substitute in the recent win over Arsenal, before starting the subsequent game against Watford where he put in a decent shift. And then there is the aforementioned Marcus Rashford. In only three games for United, the youngster has already been sounded out for an England call-up and been touted as ‘the next big thing’.
Granted, it is far too early to claim that Rashford will indeed turn out to be a top player, we have been here before after all (Macheda anyone?), but the early indications are positive, with the well-documented doubles against FC Midtjylland and Arsenal propelling him from the unknown to household name.
The most frustrating aspect of the youngsters utilised to date by LVG is the under-use of Andreas Pereira. The 20-year-old is seen by many as the crown jewel of United’s academy but has seemingly been overlooked on occasion by Van Gaal. What is more frustrating is that the Brazilian is being overlooked by Jesse Lingard who, as another academy graduate given his debut under the Dutchman, has produced moments of brilliance and mediocrity in equal measure. It is widely known around Old Trafford that many fans would like to see Pereira given more of an opportunity over the coming months, with many sensing he could prove to be as big a loss as Paul Pogba if he was to decide his future lay away from the club.
Louis Van Gaal has always stated that when he leaves the club he will leave it in a better state than when he arrived. As recent as three weeks ago that was hard to believe. However, these claims are now becoming easier to understand. Of course, any manager could have come in and spent what the Dutchman has, and more than likely delivered some silverware, but what LVG is achieving is a squad which could be able to compete for the next 10 years. It is far too early to launch any ‘class of 92’ comparisons but the latest class could be one that helps the club begin to reach the levels that we are all used to and expect.