Youth courage success. These were the three words marketed heavily by Manchester United in the summer.
It was an indication towards the fresh new approach that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was implementing at the club, with year one of the manager’s project revolving around the rebuilding of his stagnated squad.
Not only have we seen the Norwegian adopt this policy to the identification of transfer targets, but through the integration of academy players into the first-team too. This was always going to be a option to help bolster the squad’s options, as whilst seven senior figures have departed United since Solskjaer took the reigns, only four permanent replacements have come through the door.
The likes of Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams are the perfect examples of youngsters capitalising on such an opportunity. Both players have been more granted more minutes than what would have been projected at the start of the season, but to quote the notorious Sir Matt Busby, ‘If you are good enough, you are old enough.’
Solskjaer is no doubt placing the club’s tradition of trusting the youth at the top of his priorities, as we have also seen through the contract extensions of Tahiti Chong, James Garner, Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
This has all no doubt been part of a elaborate and systematic plan, as we have seen similar progressive developments in the lower ranks of the academy set-up too. At the start of the season, Nicky Butt was handed the position of ‘Head of First-Team Development’, a role established to help younger players transition into Solskjaer’s squad.
As we have seen through the above names, the academy restructure is working wonders, with policies being put in place to make sure this path remains a secure one.
Since Butt assumed his new position, the club have invested significantly into the U18 setup. Hannibal Mejbri is the first name that springs to mind, with the 17-year-old joining for £9m in the summer. Such a lucrative fee tends to be a rarity at this level, but the French talent was simply seen as too good of an opportunity to pass up on.
When analysing the transfer activity of the academy, this price tag is an anomaly, but it’s clear that money is being invested with the objective of creating and maintaining one of Europe’s most promising environments for youth players to develop in.
Mateo Mejia, Björn Hardley and Dillon Hoogewerf further highlight this mindset, with United recently adding Joe Hugill and Radek Vitek to the ranks too. It’s a continuous building process when it comes to a club’s academy, with the Red Devils currently thriving in such a department.
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