Manchester United’s 2-1 loss at the hands of Bournemouth on the weekend was undoubtedly an embarrassment for the club. The defeat to the smallest club to ever grace the Premier League leaves the Red Devils six points off top spot, and has led to increased speculation over the future of Louis van Gaal.
There were some positives for the Reds, however. After a string of injuries left them with a threadbare back four, Van Gaal handed full debuts to youngsters Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, marking the 3,768th consecutive league game in which the Red Devils had a youth player in the squad, an incredible run which stretches back to October 1937.
Van Gaal has a history of developing young talent at his previous clubs, handing debuts to the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, Rafael van der Vaart, Holger Badstuber, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and David Alaba during his spells at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
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Jesse Lingard, James Wilson, Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett, all featured in the Premier League last season for the club, and below we took a look at some of the young talents at the famed United academy who could be the next rookies to be handed their Premier League debuts.
After netting his first goal for the under-21’s in the 6-1 demolition of Leicester City on Monday night, Rashford is ‘ready for a step up’ according to United academy coach Paul McGuinness, and given the lack of goals in the first team - a paltry return of just six strikes in the last seven Premier League games - it could come sooner than later.
A pacy, skilful forward, who is capable of beating his man, Manchester-born Rashford finished as top scorer for the under-18’s last season with 13 goals from 25 appearances and was named on the first-team bench at Watford and Leicester last month.
England coach Kenny Swain, who coached Gribbin at Under-16 and U17 level, says the ability of the Salford-born playmaker used to leave him 'breathless'.
“Within five minutes of seeing him play, you can see that this boy is something special," Swain previously told Bleacher Report.
"Not many kids can deal with him or want to deal with him. He just sends them the wrong way and makes them look foolish. He leaves me breathless."
Gribbin, just 16, made 25 appearances for the U18s last season, and also featured for Warren Joyce’s U21 side, and has been described by United coach McGuiness as being a player ‘English football does not have a lot of.’
He is a player with immense skill and trickery, with a video of him humiliating four Aston Villa under-18 players going viral last season.
Perhaps Van Gaal’s plea for a player with “speed and creativity” could be solved by delving into the youth ranks.
The recipient of the 2015 Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award - an honour given to the best academy player at Man United, and previously won by the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Wes Brown and Danny Welbeck - Tuanzebe is a strong defender who is comfortable in possession despite his obvious brawn, and has progressed through the United ranks since joining the academy as an 8-year-old.
The 18-year-old, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to the England aged three, was named on the first-team bench for October's 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, and last season became the first first-year scholar to captain the U18 side since Gary Neville.
A natural leader who, in his own words “enjoys bossing people around”, Tuanzebe could soon follow the likes of Borthwick-Jackson and McNair from United’s academy to first team defence.