The 15 Man United academy graduates handed debuts by Louis van Gaal - where are they now?

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There weren’t too many highlights during Louis van Gaal’s two-year spell in charge of Manchester United, but one lasting legacy of the Dutchman’s time at Old Trafford was his commitment to their academy.

Marcus Rashford made his debut under Louis van Gaal and he wasn’t the only youngster to be given an opportunity by the 68-year-old.

In total, 15 academy players were handed their debut by Van Gaal, with the Dutchman honouring the club’s commitment to their youth players.

So, what’s happened to each individual who made their maiden senior appearance under Van Gaal?

Planet Football have taken a look…

Marcus Rashford

Rashford has flourished since earning his first start in 2016.

The striker was thrust into the starting line-up for a Europa League tie against Midtjylland after Anthony Martial suffered an injury in the warm-up and, after netting two goals in the second half, he hasn’t looked back since.

The main success story of Van Gaal’s reign.


Jesse Lingard

After being loaned out to Leicester City, Birmingham City and Brighton, Van Gaal opted to give Lingard his Man United debut against Swansea in 2014.

It didn’t go to plan, though, with Lingard going off with an injury after 24 minutes and United losing 2-1.

When he returned to fitness, the attacker was loaned out to Derby County but the following season ended with him scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace.

Lingard has struggled to perform at a consistent level, though, and his future at Old Trafford is uncertain.

Andreas Pereira

Pereira was loaned out to Grenada and Valencia after Van Gaal left and there were doubts that he would return to United.

But he did and he remains in the first-team, although he isn’t a regular in the starting line-up.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

There is still hope that Timothy Fosu-Mensah can star for Man United.

He made his breakthrough in the first team in 2015/16 and was loaned out to gain Premier League experience with Crystal Palace in 2017/18 and Fulham last season.

An unfortunate anterior cruciate ligament injury kept Fosu-Mensah out for 12 months but he’s still only 22 years old.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

Man United awarded Borthwick-Jackson a new long-term contract after he made 14 first-team appearances in 2015/16, but his development has stalled since.

Loans at Wolves, Leeds United and Tranmere were all terminated prematurely amid concerns about his attitude, and he was loaned out to Oldham Athletic at the start of 2020.

Saidy Janko

Janko’s only senior experience at Man United came in the embarrassing 4-0 defeat to MK Dons in the League Cup.

He was subbed off at half-time in that match and failed to establish himself in Manchester, leaving for Porto in 2018.

The right-back is still yet to play for the Portuguese outfit, being loaned out to Nottingham Forest and Young Boys.

Guillermo Varela

Varela was signed by David Moyes but had to wait until Van Gaal arrived to make his debut.

The right-back made 11 appearances in Van Gaal’s final season in charge.

He was loaned out to Eintracht Frankfurt the following campaign but that didn’t work out as planned, Varela infuriating the German club after an infected tattoo forced him to miss the German Cup final.

Varela, 27, now plays for FC Copenhagen.

Paddy McNair

McNair’s relationship with Van Gaal was the definition of love/hate.

The Man United boss played the academy graduate in defence and said he could be the club’s right-back for the next 10 years, but criticised the Northern Irishman after he “thought he was a striker” during a lapse in concentration against Leicester in 2015.

After leaving the Red Devils, McNair said he was played out of position at Old Trafford.

He left for Sunderland in 2016 and joined Middlesbrough in 2018.

Tom Thorpe

Thorpe made just one appearance for the Red Devils before dropping into the Football League, playing for Birmingham, Rotherham, Bradford and Bolton.

The 27-year-old has been without a club since leaving Indian Super League side ATK two years ago.

Tyler Blackett

Blackett played 12 times for United in 2014/15 and was loaned out for more experience with Celtic the following season.

That, however, proved unproductive, and Blackett was sold to Reading in 2016.

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Reece James

Like Janko, James’ only outing for Man United came in the defeat to MK Dons.

He completed loan spells at Carlisle, Rotherham and Huddersfield before joining Wigan on a permanent deal in 2015.

James now plays for Doncaster Rovers after spending the 2018/19 season at Sunderland.

Donald Love

Love lost both of his matches for Man United before joining David Moyes at Sunderland in 2016.

He was a part of the Black Cats side that suffered back-to-back relegations and left for Shrewsbury Town in 2019.

Earlier this year Love scored an own goal against Liverpool in the FA Cup.

Regan Poole

Poole was a late substitute in the win over Midtjylland that marked Rashford’s arrival.

That would be his only appearance for the Red Devils but his departure came three years later when he was released.

The Welsh centre-back now plays in League One for Milton Keynes Dons.

James Weir

Weir signed for Hull City in 2016 after making just one appearance for United.

His spell at the KCOM Stadium was married by a string of unfortunate injuries and he joined Bolton in 2019.

The 24-year-old’s contract was terminated in January 2020 and he was snapped up by Slovakian side Pohronie.

Joe Riley

Riley made two appearances for United in the space of four days in 2016, including in the 5-1 win over Midtjylland.

The youngster hasn’t had much luck with injuries since then. An injury cut short a loan spell at Sheffield United in 2017 and he suffered a serious knee injury last August that ruled him out of Bradford’s entire 2019/20 campaign.

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