Move over ‘92 – Meet Man United’s class of 2016
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has copped a lot of flak this season and according to the press has been on the brink of losing his job on numerous occasions.
And, while his tenure at Old Trafford has been largely disappointing so far, one thing the Dutchman has succeeded in is giving youth a chance.
The former Barcelona, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Holland boss is famed for putting his faith in youth and whether by desire or necessity – the Red Devils are in the midst of a notable injury crisis – has painted a bright future for the years ahead at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson had unprecedented success at the United helm but arguably his legacy will be cemented by his production of the famed Class of 92.
Alan Hansen scoffed that the Red Devils would “win nothing with kids” but David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and the Neville brothers proceeded to make him eat his words for the next two decades.
Despite the odd glimpse, United have rarely looked likely to repeat the trick since the heady days of that particular graduating group but in recent weeks Van Gaal has been forced to use a number of players who could prove to be the foundation for another era of success in the north-west.
While comparisons with the above-named players are clearly premature here we take a look at six players who could put heir own stamp in United’s history books over the coming years.
This time last week few people outside of the United academy had heard of Marcus Rashford but after a smashing four goals in two Red Devils wins in the space of four days the 18-year-old is the name on everyone’s lips.
Hailing from the same Fletcher Moss youth side as the likes of Ravel Morrison, Danny Welbeck and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Rashford, who bagged braces against FC Midtjylland and Arsenal, is now being tipped for big things.
Former Holland U17 captain Fosu-Mensah was one of just three Premier League-based players to feature on the Guardian’s 50 Best Young Players in Europe list last year and his commanding displays in both midfield and defence for the United U21 side are evidence of why he made the cut.
Comparisons to former United youth star Paul Pogba may be flattering but having made his first team debut at the tender age of 18 the Dutchman will be looking to make his mark over the coming seasons.
Given the injuries to Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo this season it is somewhat surprising that Riley has only been given some first-team action in the recent weeks.
The Blackpool-born 19-year-old joined United as a midfielder but his potential to play as an attack-minded left-back was soon spotted. A determined and pacy player Riley will more than likely pick up some Denis Irwin comparisons in the coming months.
At 23 Lingard has a few years on the other names on this list but injuries have hampered his game time and just as Giggs was the elder statesman of the Class of 92 the Warrington-born winger could emerge as the leader of the new pack.
When fit and playing at his best this season the forward has outshone £30m man Memphis Depay and been a shining light in what has at times been a dim Red Devils’ attack.
Manchester born-and-bred Borthwick-Jackson has already been at United for 13 years and in just 12 outings this year he seems determined to grab his chance in the first team.
An assured head on young shoulders the England U19 man will hope to give a fit-again Luke Shaw competition for his place next season.
Another player thrust into the limelight in the second leg of United Europa League tie with Midtjylland, Love is a Scottish defender expected to have a bright future at Old Trafford.
Having impressed in a short loan spell at Wigan Athletic the Rochdale-born Scotland U21 man was quickly re-called and will be knocking on the door of the first team for the remainder of this season and beyond.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing.