There may have been little on the line in Manchester United’s final game of the season with a top-four spot out of reach.
But the Red Devils’ dead-rubber clash with Crystal Palace showed that a brighter future may be ahead. Jose Mourinho fielded the club’s youngest ever Premier League side – average age 22 years and 284 days – and the fledglings duly cruised to a 2-0 victory.
Here’s a brief guide to the youngsters who lit up Old Trafford on Sunday, and what could be next on the agenda for them.
GK: Joel Pereira
The Swiss stopper made his first start for the club on Sunday, following an impressive loan spell with Portuguese top-flight side Belenenses earlier in the campaign, as well as a cameo appearance for the Red Devils in their January’s Emirates FA Cup victory over Wigan Athletic.
He had relatively little to do against the Eagles, but was bright and alert when needing to save from Luka Milivojevic’s palm-stinging effort in the game’s latter stages. Expect to see more of him next season, especially if David de Gea leaves.
LB: Demetri Mitchell
The 20-year-old has had few issues at the back for United’s under-23 side, but it’s in coming forward where he’s really shone, scoring five times and assisting one goal in 19 outings for the youngsters this term.
A confident, classy performer with electric pace, the youngster has also proven himself a versatile performer, turning out in positions as varied as centre-forward and left-midfielder for interim coach Nicky Butt’s under-23s. Not the finished article yet, but definitely has the potential to be a real difference-maker for the first team.
RB/DM: Tim Fosu-Mensah
More established than many of the other youngsters who featured in M16 on Sunday, it’s easy to forget that the Dutch dynamo is just 19 years old. Especially so when you consider the youngster’s hulking physique.
However, the majority of Fosu-Mensah’s displays this term have been brief sub appearances, with this his first Prem start of the campaign. However, he’s looked good in the cups this term – and an assured performance on Sunday has done his reputation no harm.
DM: Axel Tuanzebe
Though used mostly as a defender in the youth setup, it seems Jose Mourinho sees the England under-20 international as a holding midfielder – having played that role in three of the side’s last four league games.
The fact Tuanzebe has started each of those games is a testament to his classy distribution, ability at breaking up opposition attacks and relentless energy. Oh, and he’s top-notch when tasked with a man-marking job, having kept Alexis Sanchez quiet on United’s recent trip to the Emirates.
AM: Angel Gomes
The 16-year-old became the first Premier League player born since 2000 when he came on against the Eagles, replacing Wayne Rooney and making the Ladbrokes News team feel very, very old in the process.
Having scored 11 times in 17 games for the under-18s this term, he became the youngest ever winner of the club’s Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year award in May. We saw just a glimpse of the Londoner yesterday, but it’s unlikely this will be his last appearance for the first team.
AM/RW: Josh Harrop
Many of those who’ve followed the United youth setup in recent times feel the 21-year-old’s inclusion in the first team has been overdue. And his display against Sam Allardyce’s side on Sunday certainly gave strength to that argument.
The 21-year-old offered up fantastic footwork and a fine finish to open the scoring just 14 minutes into his first-team debut. With a natural flair and eye for goal, he definitely has a bright future – though the winger may need to bulk up his very slight physique if he’s to cope with the rigours of senior football.
CF: Scott McTominay
Standing at 6ft 4in, it’s no surprise the Lancaster-born youngster has been utilised as a target-man striker for the under-23s. But his more central role on Sunday suggests Mourinho could look to convert the powerful 20-year-old.
He linked up well with Michael Carrick in the second period, but on the day, was outshone by the likes of Mitchell and Harrop. Still, he looked confident and unhurried against an Eagles midfield containing the likes of Jason Puncheon and James McArthur – no mean feat for a debutant.
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