Gary Neville has encouraged Jose Mourinho to place his trust in youth players at Manchester United this season.
The Portuguese, often derided for failure to look towards the academy, handed Premier League debuts to Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay, Angel Gomes, Demetri Mitchell, Josh Harrop and Joel Pereira last season.
Speaking to United’s official website, Neville noted that trusting in youth was an inherent characteristic of the club’s culture.
“You can sit here and say our time is over, but when you look at the guys in the current team – Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard – and the 80 years of consecutive games including youth team players, it’s fantastic and it’s important United continue to tell the story of youth,” he said, “particularly in a time where it’s more difficult to break into the first team, so I don’t think we should let the candle burn out.”
“Ultimately we need to keep reminding people of the importance of producing young players and local players who’ve grown up loving the club. You can look what Tottenham are doing – you’ve got to respect it, or Southampton, and the other clubs that produce a lot of young players, because they connect with the fans.”
Mourinho will desperately want to avoid sinking to the depths reached in the Louis van Gaal era, but he can draw one valuable lesson from the Dutchman’s miserable second season in charge at Old Trafford: that the vitality of youth, no matter how bad the surrounding circumstances may be, can inject life into this club like no other.
Rashford’s rise from anonymity to stardom in February 2016 allowed supporters, growingly anaesthetised by the Dutchman’s turgid style, to feel like this was their club again. That there was genuinely something worth cheering.
And as Mourinho navigates the choppy water of his own second season in charge, he ought to keep such a notion in mind.