With the acute injury crisis that Manchester United have suffered over the previous few weeks, many have declared their season to be over with key players such Rooney, Schweinsteiger and Smalling all out injured. This meant that manager Louis van Gaal was forced to give debuts to a wide variety of youth players, as well as players like Ander Herrera, who hasn’t started as many games as he would have liked. With crucial, season defining games coming up as well the well coined phrase ‘you can’t win anything with kids’ phrase was one being thrown around. To boost the confidence of his players, van Gaal has requested that they be ‘horny’ on the pitch, which is a word now much used to describe this turnaround in form.
However the contrary has happened and these young players in fact injected new life into the squad. Playing with no fear, United have hit very good form, and look a shadow of the boring, uncreative side that the country had started to love. In fact, the average age of the team that finished the match in the famous 3-2 victory over Arsenal was under 24 years old.
Crazy with all injuries, but great as always to see United youth on the pitch; Love, McNair, Lingard plus Memphis and Martial #MUFC
— J. Ericsson (@JEricsson7) February 18, 2016
With these youth players now buzzing around Old Trafford, the question is who are the ones to watch?
No current discussion on United’s first team now is without the inclusion of the young home-grown talisman. Four goals and 1 assist in 2 games has seen him become a force to be reckoned with and Roy Hodgson has recently claimed that Rashford is not to be ruled out of his Euro 2016 squad. This is praise that is well deserved and the goals scored in both games were catalysts for the fans’ sighs of relief. Despite only playing two games for the Red Devils, Rashford has already entered his name into the club’s history book, as his first goal against FC Midtjylland made him United’s youngest ever European goalscorer; a record previously held by legend George Best. Many would have thought it was too soon for Rashford to start for the first team, seeing as he had never started a game for the U19s, however he has proved himself not only in Europe, but against champions elect.
Amongst the United fans, Jesse Lingard seems to have a ‘marmite’ reputation. Fans either love his energy and pace, or hate his wastefulness.
I honestly hate lingard. Only looks anyway decent because we're awful. Will be shown up when we get good
— Conor O'Driscoll (@lnsideforwards) February 25, 2016
Like Rashford, Lingard is a local boy which at a club as big as Manchester United, is a factor that immediately gives a player a foothold into the fans’ hearts. The beginning of Lingard’s Manchester United career was very ‘stop-start’ to say the least, with him going out on loan four times in five years (Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and Derby). In between said loan spells Lingard wasn’t without his first team opportunities, and was in fact always seen as an important player in the eyes of van Gaal. Recent performances have shown to back up van Gaal’s trust in the youngster with important goals being fired in against the likes of Chelsea.
Another player not without his critics, many expected a lot more from the 23.2 million pound signing from PSV Eindhoven. Especially seeing as di Maria had left, Depay was seen by many as United’s only skill outlet. In recent weeks however, that expectation is starting to come to light as the Dutchman has seemed to flourish playing with the likes of Rashford, Martial and Lingard who all play without any fear.
Memphis: The new Ronaldo or the new Nani?https://t.co/GmHOVtDO8b
— Football Super Tips (@FootySuperTips) March 3, 2016
A Man of the Match performance against FC Midtjylland has all but cemented that he does have the skill required to make fans love him, and welcome him in the famous number 7 shirt worn by so many legends in the past. Depay’s recent improvement has been noticed by many, including team mates with Daley Blind stating: “I think he is improving a lot. He’s a great player and a great person as well. He works very hard so I was extremely happy for him.”(Source: Manchester Evening News).
Ander Herrera’s recent re-introduction into the first team as been met with a very warm response by a lot of fans. Many have always argued that his creative touch as well as his fearlessness should be enough for him to always have a spot in the first team.
If we ain't careful we will lose herrera, there is no excuse as to why he isn't playing ? It's totally unacceptable
— Kev (@kevazza2804) February 15, 2016
With recent performances in the Europa league and against Arsenal to boot, he has managed to maintain his reputation with aplomb. With Schweinsteiger out, and Carrick having to play in defence, this is Herrera’s chance to prove to Louis van Gaal that he is worthy of being in his starting 11 week in and week out. 2 goals in 2 games should be a good place to start, and it should be a massive boost to his confidence.
To conclude, it could be argued that the injury crisis that United are suffering is a blessing in disguise, as this has pushed many young, hungry, passionate players into the limelight, playing with a spark and energy that is very uncharacteristic for Manchester United in the eyes of many. Time will tell is the likes of Rashford have cemented places in the starting 11 as the season progresses, but one thing is certain, and this is that the form produced by these youngsters is a ray of sunshine in what has been a very dark season indeed for Manchester United.