Turning to youth and placing faith in youngsters is not only a part of the fabric of Manchester United, but it’s also a staple of The Dutch Way. Louis Van Gaal promoted the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard to the first team, and they have gone on to great levels of success.
Now, with the era of Erik Ten Hag right around the corner, there’s a strong possibility that more of our youth academy prospects will be promoted to the senior squad next season.
Admittedly, United never looked comfortable under Van Gaal, and during his time at the helm, the Premier League witnessed one of its greatest ever shocks in the game. But the youngsters that Ten Hag promoted to his Ajax first team led him to a domestic double and a Champions League semifinal. Clearly, talents like Frenkie De Jong are in short supply the world over, but perhaps the success the incoming Dutchman had in Amsterdam will also be replicated at Old Trafford.
The soon-to-be-former Ajax manager will have a plethora of options in an academy stocked full of talent. Some of the game’s biggest superstars, such as David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, have come through the doors of Carrington. Who are the contenders to receive an early graduation courtesy of Eric Ten Hag’s United revolution?
17-year-old Argentinian Alejandro Garnacho is probably Manchester United’s hottest prospect. The young winger is already no stranger to making headlines, having surprised the world in March when he received a call up to the Argentina national team despite not making a senior appearance at Old Trafford.
Garnacho, who was born in Madrid to Argentinian parents, was the top talent in Atletico Madrid’s academy, attracting interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund before being lured to Manchester in October 2020 for £400,000. After recently making his United debut in the 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea, it seems that the future is bright for the wonderkid, and with The Red Devils being under new management in the summer, wingers Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho may already be looking over their shoulders.
Whereas Garnacho didn’t make an appearance for his national side when called up, midfielder Hannibal Mejbri is already a fully-fledged international at just 19 years of age. Born in the outskirts of Paris and a graduate of the famed Clairefontaine academy, Mejbr qualifies for Tunisian nationality through his parents. He was called up to the national team for the first time last May, shortly after making his United debut on the final game of last season, and has made 12 appearances since.
In a Manchester United shirt, the young playmaker has already captured the imagination of fans and pundits alike, with Sky Sports’ Gary Neville praising his desire and work rate in the recent drubbing against Liverpool at Anfield. It would be surprising if the Tunisian international wasn’t involved more next season.
Our recent woes at left-back are well documented. Big-money signing Alex Telles has delivered one disaster class after another and the less Roy Keane sees of Luke Shaw the better. Is there a chance then for Spanish Under-19 international Alvaro Fernandez?
Erik Ten Hag does have a previous history of promoting and placing faith in young fullbacks. Moroccan international Noussair Mazraoui was entrusted with being Ajax’s number one right back under the Dutchman, and he didn’t look back. He became a key part of their double-winning side of 2020/21 and is currently being linked with a move to German giants Bayern Munich.
Young Englishman Shola Shoretire has a mountain of hype behind him. The winger appeared for United in the UEFA Youth League aged 14 and then went on to debut for the Under-23s at just 16. He also became the youngest ever Red Devil to feature in Europe, when he appeared against the Spanish side Real Sociedad in last season’s Europa League. Will we find out if the hype is real next season?