Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is planning to give several of the club’s homegrown youngsters a chance to play alongside Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao this season as the Old Trafford outfit fight to safeguard their reputation as the custodians of youth.
United’s hierarchy have been dismayed by the criticism aimed at them following their deadline day move for Colombian striker Falcao and exits of England internationals Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, who both came through the academy ranks.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s former No 2 Mike Phelan claimed: ‘Danny Welbeck has been part of United’s identity and that has been broken.’
However, United insist youngsters like Tyler Blackett, Reece James, James Wilson and Sam Johnstone will be part of their first-team squad this season, with Jesse Lingard joining them when he returns from a leg injury he picked up on the opening day.
United have a proud record of having at least one home-grown player in every first-team squad since 1937 and are determined that will not be broken under Van Gaal, who earned a reputation at Ajax and Barcelona for giving young players their chance, including Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert and Andres Iniesta.
Senior sources at United say despite their £190million spending spree in 2014, their strategy — sanctioned by Van Gaal — is to build a team of the best players in the world and youngsters who have come through United’s system. A record £59.7m was paid for Di Maria in the summer transfer window with big fees also splashed out on Marcos Rojo, who yesterday received his long-awaited work permit, Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind. Juan Mata signed for £38m in January and is still part of Van Gaal’s plans.
Of the current crop of United youngsters, 18-year-old striker Wilson is seen as the best prospect — alongside Adnan Januzaj, 19 — and scored twice on his first-team debut under interim manager Ryan Giggs last season.
Defender Blackett and James, both 20, and 21-year-old goalkeeper Johnstone are also the latest kids to come off the production line at a club famed for their Busby Babes and Class of ’92. Shaw, 19, should also return soon from a hamstring injury after his £27m move from Southampton.
As reported in Wednesday’s Sportsmail, United will give Van Gaal more funds in January as they try to get back into the top four after last season’s disappointing seventh-place finish under David Moyes.
Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman is a £25m target and a top central defender is also needed, although Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels remains off limits unless the German club are knocked out of European competition early.
United have failed to win any of their opening three league games but received some good news for their next fixture when Argentina’s World Cup defender Rojo, 24, was granted a work permit following his £16m summer move from Sporting Lisbon. He will be available to face QPR on Sunday week.
Fellow Argentinian Di Maria did not have to go through the process as he holds an Italian passport through a grandparent.– Daily Mail