Louis Van Gaal was pleased with the performances of the younger members of the squad following Manchester United’s victory over Valencia in the final pre-season match and feels that they have the ability to improve even further.
“I think they did reasonably well, but they could better I believe but it’s a start,” Van Gaal said after the game.
“Four debuts today, it’s not easy to play in Old Trafford for your first time so I am pleased. We have won against a very good team and of course I think we have to be better, choose the right time to pass the ball, to invest in the team and we haven’t done that and that’s a pity.”
Blackett was handed a start in central defence in the absence of the injured Jonny Evans and it was yet another accomplished performance from the 20-year-old. He was solid defensively except for the error that gave away the free-kick which lead to Valencia’s equaliser and also provided the assist for Marouane Fellaini‘s late winner.
His performances have been somewhat surprising since he has struggled both at youth level and on loan over the last couple of seasons but no one can deny that he grabbed his opportunity and has shown fantastic composure whilst playing against top attackers including the formidable Real Madrid duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Blackett looks to have played his way in Van Gaal’s plans for this season.
Reece James is another who is in contention for a starting spot this season. Affectionately referred to by Van Gaal as “our friend Reece James“, he followed up great performances against LA Galaxy and AS Roma with another decent run out against Valencia. With Luke Shaw ruled out for a month coupled with Van Gaal’s doubts about his overall fitness, James has an opportunity to nail down the left wing back slot as his own.
Keane and Lingard also featured in the victory over Valencia with both players coming on as substitutes in the 62nd minute. Keane did admirably after coming on albeit without being as composed as Blackett. Lingard was once again deployed at right wing back and had a quiet but effective performance in an unfamiliar role.
Unfortunately playing so far back on the pitch is limiting Lingard’s chances to shine and he would be more effective further up the pitch, although at the moment it is likely that defensive frailties are forcing Van Gaal’s hand.