“You can’t win anything with kids.” The infamous words of Alan Hansen after a youthful Manchester United side containing the likes of Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and David Beckham were beaten by Aston Villa on the opening day of the season 24 years ago. Nine months later those same kids would help United to a league and FA cup double before going on to complete an historic treble a few years later showing that sometimes, youth can be the answer.
Fast forward to the present day and after the highs of thrashing Chelsea on the opening day of the season, United have crashed back down to Earth with draws at Wolves and Southampton coming either side of a shock defeat to Crystal Palace. However, despite the stuttering start one positive has been the impact that our young players have had.
Marcus Rashford (21) and Anthony Martial (23) have led the line together for United mostly and after Romelu Lukaku’s move to Inter Milan on deadline day the pressure has been on. Much was said about Ole’s decision to not replace the Belgian, but the United boss simply insisted that he trusts Rashford and Martial to step up and fill the gap, both have scored twice and have one assist to their name so it would seem his belief is paying off. He also added that signing another centre forward would only block 17-year-old starlet, Mason Greenwood’s path to the first team. Whether Solskjaer actually believes this or it’s just his way of covering Ed Woodward’s failure to sign a Lukaku replacement, you’d be hard pressed to find a United fan not brimming with excitement at the prospect of seeing Mason develop and feature regularly.
The summer signings of Aaron Wan-Bissaka (21) and Daniel James (21) further support the idea that Solsjkaer is building a team that is young, hungry and full of “United DNA” and arguments could be made that the two of them have been United’s best players so far. James has scored 3 goals in 4 appearances including one on his Premier League debut, and Wan-Bissaka looks like he’s been a United right back all his life. Finally, the pre-season inclusion of youth team prospects such as; Angel Gomes (18), Tahith Chong (18) and James Garner (18) shows that Ole is determined to carry on the record of including an academy player in every matchday squad since 1938 and United fans will be hoping to see them staring in the Premier League before too long.
Sir Matt Busby once said: “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough” a quote that is imprinted on the wall of the player’s dressing room, and it would seem Solskjaer believes what his United predecessor said and that the academy is in good hands.