Manchester United cannot waste their current crop of academy talent

The latest crop of talent from the Carrington conveyer belt have been catching the eyes of Manchester United supporters across the globe as they became the first side to reach the FA Youth Cup final since 2011 on Wednesday evening when they beat Wolves 3-0 at Old Trafford.

That side did not include the likes of Hannibal Mejbri, Alvaro Fernandez, Shola Shoretire and Zidane Iqbal who have been rubbing shoulders with the first-team in recent months. However, it was not lacking talent, with the likes of Alejandro Garnacho, Charlie McNeill and 16-year-old Kobbie Mainoo showing outstanding performances at the Theatre of Dreams.

Isak Hansen-Aaroen was another who provided a sublime assist for United’s first goal of the night, finding the run of McNeill perfectly. The Norwegian midfielder’s elegance on the ball throughout the game was a joy to watch. He was supplemented by the impressive Dan Gore and Mainoo alongside him in the midfield.

“Our main focus is learning and development but at Manchester United you’ve also got to know how to win,” Head of Academy Nick Cox explained. “You’ve got to be able to play under pressure; you’ve got to be able to deliver what you’ve learnt in the spotlight. I’m delighted that the boys managed to do that.”

There have been many talented academy teams that have failed to reach the heights in the prestigious cup competition that the current side are achieving, and there is an awe of excitement that some of these players could become future stars for the club that has historically brought through the best in class.

“It’s always been possible at a club like Manchester United, that young players, if their attitude is right, if they had enough talent and enough mentality, there is a pathway to become a regular player for this club.” Ralf Rangnick told MUTV this week.

“There are quite a few technical players, really good players in possession of the ball.” He detailed when talking about the academy prospects in United’s ranks. “If they can combine that with physicality, with speed that is also necessary for this league, the Premier League, I would be very happy to see a couple of those players in the first team in the next years.”

However, we’ve watched this movie haven’t we?

In recent years, Manchester United have struggled to give the academy products that they promote the platform to develop into well-rounded players who can compete consistently at the top level.

Both Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay are approaching what what be considered as their ‘prime years’ as footballers, yet both still lack fundamentals in their games in order to take the next steps.

Rashford, currently in rotten form, still shows weaknesses that were evident when he broke through under Louis van Gaal, while United are still attempting to mould their Scottish midfielder into a defensive minded player despite him not showing any clear improvements in this side of his game for the last three years.

On loan at Sevilla, Anthony Martial was not developed at the club that purchased a superbly talented winger from AS Monaco, but he did stagnate and fail to develop certain areas of his game to reach the heights he was destined to reach after scoring against Liverpool on his debut in 2015.

These players, in particular the two forwards, are not failures and are having impressive careers nonetheless, but they could’ve been in a much better position had they been nurtured in a better way.

No matter the talent, the environment for these players needs to be at a top level in order to squeeze every ounce of talent out of them. United don’t have to look further than across the city to see how Phil Foden has benefitted under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola.

There are countless names in the United academy that could make it at the club. However, if they also fail to take strides as their predecessors have once they’ve progressed to the first-team, the consensus will more than likely be that they ‘didn’t try hard enough’ or something similar, rather than looking at the underlying problem.

Player development does not stop once a youngster reaches first-team status and United’s changing styles and personnel in management positions is not benefiting the cub in many different areas, including this one.

With Rangnick as a stop-gab manager before he moves into consultancy role, there needs to be a stable environment for these players to come into. They shouldn’t have to save the team from embarrassment as Martial and Rashford had done in their development years.

It’s difficult to not get excited at the sheer amount of talent that the Red Devils are producing, however, they will only succeed if United move in the right direction. That is pivotal, otherwise we’ll likely have to see them shine elsewhere.

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