It’s been four seasons since the great Sir Alex Ferguson retired, yet it’s clear to see that Manchester United are still undergoing a pretty big rebuilding job.
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal have both come and gone, they finished 24 points behind Premier League champions Chelsea this campaign, but Jose Mourinho did lead them to the EFL Cup and Europa League in his first year in charge.
Give youth a chance
In his very first press conference as Man Utd boss, Mourinho claimed that he’d be willing to give academy stars opportunities to prove themselves at senior level.
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Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford have all been first-teamers, but what can be said about the nine United youngsters who spent the 2016-17 season out on loan? How did they perform? Let’s take a comprehensive look.
In January, having played back-up to David de Gea and Sergio Romero, Mourinho allowed goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to move to Aston Villa for the remainder of the campaign.
The 24-year-old’s Villa debut came at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup, and he went on to make 21 Championship appearances, keeping eight clean sheets and even managing an assist.
Severe ankle ligament damage sustained back in September limited Guillermo Varela to just seven Bundesliga matches for Eintracht Frankfurt this term (ten in all competitions).
He performed pretty well, and Frankfurt boss Niko Kovac even said that the 24-year-old was set to start last month’s German Cup final and receive a loan extension.
However, those plans were scrapped and the Uruguayan foolishly missed the 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund after he defied staff instructions and got a new tattoo, which caused an inflammation.
Due to that and other disciplinary problems, he was suspended, but with the brilliant Antonio Valencia turning 32 in August, Man Utd will need another right-back option soon and Varela may fit the bill.
Joe Riley spent the second half of the season at Sheffield United, but he only played twice for the side which impressively picked up 100 points to win League One and earn promotion.
The versatile academy product, who made his senior Man Utd debut under Van Gaal in the Europa League in 2015-16, is capable of operating anywhere across the midfield as well as at full-back.
It’s been a tough few years for Adnan Januzaj, having burst onto the scene in 2013 in terrific fashion, with his skills and trickery getting fans off their seats.
Mourinho let the gifted Belgian join Sunderland for the season, who were managed by Moyes; the man who undoubtedly got the best out of him in a United shirt.
Januzaj made 28 appearances (including 18 league starts), recording three assists, and his only goal was the winner last August against Shrewsbury in the EFL Cup.
His 2016-17 stats aren’t exactly jaw-dropping, but he did show some promising signs and let’s not forget that he was playing for the worst team in England’s top-flight.
The 22-year-old playmaker desperately needs to reignite his career, but only time will tell whether or not that will be at Old Trafford.
Highly-rated 20-year-old Joel Castro Pereira spent the first half of this season in his homeland Portugal with Belenenses, playing nine times and keeping three clean sheets.
His loan spell ended in January so that Johnstone could go out and get some regular game time, and upon returning, he made his United debut in the 4-0 FA Cup win over Wigan Athletic.
Joel picked up an injury soon afterwards, but the man Mourinho labelled “the best Portuguese goalkeeper of the next generation” kept a clean sheet in the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in Man Utd’s final league game of the campaign.
Promising English defender Cameron Borthwick-Jackson broke into Man Utd’s senior team during 2015-16 and was loaned out to Wolverhampton Wanderers on a season-long deal.
However, the 20-year-old, who can play at centre-back or left-back, struggled to make an impact at Molineux, featuring just six times for the Midlands club.
Andreas Pereira is probably the biggest talent to emerge from United’s academy in recent years and, recognising his need for regular football, Mourinho allowed him to join Granada for the 2016-17 season.
It was a very successful loan spell for the Belgium-born Brazilian, who started 34 of the Spanish club’s 38 league matches, making 37 appearances in total (only Guillermo Ochoa made more).
The attacking midfielder provided three assists and scored five goals, including a stunning 25-yard winner against Las Palmas, but his imagination couldn’t prevent Granada from finishing bottom of La Liga.
Despite the team’s poor year, Pereira remained their brightest spark throughout with his passing and dribbling skills, and no other Granada player scored, assisted or created more than him.
At 21, Andreas still has a lot of development ahead of him, however Man United fans should expect big things from this natural-born playmaker in the future.
Dean Henderson was loaned out last summer to Grimsby Town for the rest of 2016, where he made seven appearances in League Two and saw his deal extended until the end of January.
It was extended further into a season-long loan, however, following an injury to United’s third-choice ‘keeper Castro Pereira, Henderson was recalled by Mourinho in February.
The 20-year-old has played for England at under-16, under-17 and under-20 levels and was part of the recent squad which won the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
James Wilson, who lit up Old Trafford with two goals on his United debut, began pre-season with Mourinho but moved to Derby County for the season.
It’s fair to say that things didn’t go too well for the 21-year-old striker, given that he failed to find the back of the net from any of his four games (three starts).
To make things worse, Wilson unfortunately suffered a very serious knee injury in mid-October and was forced to return to Man Utd immediately for treatment.
Do YOU think any of these youngsters have what it takes to get into Mourinho’s first-team at Man Utd? Have YOUR say in the comments box below!
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