Amongst the animosity that currently surrounds Old Trafford, especially after Manchester United suffered their first Champions League defeat in a 2-0 loss to Olympiacos on Tuesday, the embattled club has announced that young starlet Jesse Lingard will be sent on loan to Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion for the remainder of the season.
With this latest transaction, United currently have 18 players, both youth and senior, out on loan. Additionally, the team also sold youngsters Larnell Cole, a goal scoring attacking midfielder and Ryan Tunnicliffe, a more central midfielder to Fulham during the January transfer window.
The ousting of all this young talent is a major cause for concern for Manchester United. A club that prides itself on successfully integrating its youth with its senior players. With the current lack of youth around the first team coupled with the swirling rumors that United will be spending roughly £150 million on transfers this summer, it raises questions as to the intentions of the club’s youth promotion history.
What happened to introducing and integrating youth to first team football? Which youth players should have United brought back during the January transfer window? And what’s the best way to go about this summer’s transfer window?
Historically, Manchester United has been able to blend their younger talent with that of the senior squad players and still yield successful results. The best example of this youthful implementation is the class of 92’. This is when Ryan Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes were all introduced. They played alongside the likes of Peter Schmeichel and Eric Cantona, who were all senior players.
This contingent of players brought United the club’s first English title in 26 years. More importantly, these players provided a foundation for United to maintain their success over the next decade both domestically and internationally.
Its time for manager David Moyes to begin an implementation of youth of his own because with their lack of success this season, is there any better time to start including the younger players when the squad is struggling with depth and age?
In Moyes’ defense, he has incorporated attacking midfielder Adnan Januzaj, who single handedly brought United three points in a 2-1 victory at Sunderland earlier this season. The young Belgian, who is yet to decide his national team, has impressed since his introduction to the first team. However he’s the only case despite major voids appearing in the squad.
Hypothetically speaking let’s say during the winter transfer window Moyes promoted a couple younger players such as right back Marnick Vermijl and recalled center backs Tom Thorpe and Michael Keane. With the 2-0 win against Cardiff, the 2-2 draw against Fulham, and even the 2-0 win at Crystal Palace, Moyes could have given them the opportunity to prove themselves and gain first team match experience.
From this, Moyes could have afforded to rest Chris Smalling and or one or both of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic for the Champions League meeting against the Greek champions Olympiacos, instead of playing them in back-to-back games two days apart. Hindsight is bittersweet.
There are others that Moyes could have brought in to tinker with, in preparation for the future not just the present such as Nick Powell and Charni Ekangamene who are central midfielders and could fill United’s largest void.
Instead, Manchester United have set their sights mainly on the talent abroad, which could also be potential solutions, but are riskier and more costly if they do not workout.
United have been linked numerous players such as defenders Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Luke Shaw (Southampton), and midfielders Arturo Vidal (Juventus), Illkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund), and Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich) to name a few.
It must also be said that whomever Ed Woodward and Moyes do decide to bring in, will have to fit Moyes’ style of play. This fact makes the departure of Jesse Lingard, who is a winger as well as a forward, all the more confusing.
The English U-21 international has impressed fans and critics since accompanying the senior team on their preseason tour last summer. When on tour, Lingard scored four times for United including a double against the A-League All-Stars. Once the season began, he was loaned out to Championship side Birmingham City where he amazingly scored four times in his debut.
With this situation and the disparaging play of the team, these next few games (at West Brom, vs. Liverpool, vs. Olympiacos, vs. Manchester City) will determine the focus of the rest of the season. If United lose any of those games, then Moyes should consider gradually implementing the younger players to give them a chance before the summer.
Otherwise, this foretold chronic spending spree would reduce United to the levels of materialistic clubs such as Manchester City and Chelsea.