Manchester United faced a Crystal Palace side safe from relegation after beating Hull City 4-0 the week before. However, United on the other hand were coming into the game in shocking form after losing to both North London sides and drawing with an average Southampton side on the Wednesday.
Debuts for United Youngsters
Although, United’s form has been woeful in recent weeks, the relevance of their form was thrown out the window as Mourinho opted to field a starting eleven with the majority being kids or players in need of minutes. There were 8 players starting for Manchester United from their academy, including Pogba and Lingard. Four players got their first ever starts for United; Josh Harrop, Scott McTominay, Demetri Mitchell and Joel Castro Pereira.
United decided to give this handful of youngsters a start due to the fast approaching Europa League Final and worries over injuring any more first team players. There was also five prominent first team players starting the match; Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Wayne Rooney, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba. The bench was also filled with United juniors, four of seven were academy graduates; Kieran O’Hara, Zachary Dearnley, Matty Willock and of course, 16 year old prospect, Angel Gomes.
Jose’s Juniors Shine
Manchester United started fast, winning a corner straightaway and playing plenty fast paced football. An example of the high tempo football is summed up beautifully in the third minute when Fosu-Mensah is caught out and Palace are pretty much through on goal but he races back in a matter of seconds to put in a terrific challenge to win back possession. The intensity of the game reflected the youth of United’s sides.
The pressure and pace of the game benefitted United as Paul Pogba found space to play a sensational outside of the foot pass to put Josh Harrop through on goal. The 21 year old duly obliged with a brilliant finish after cutting inside Martin Kelly. United scored a second almost straight after, when Jesse Lingard ran 50 yards up the pitch and played a neat through ball to Pogba who smacked the ball through the legs of Wayne Hennesey. This put United 2-0 up, which was also the final scoreline.
How Did They Get On?
The kids showcased exactly why Mourinho should not fear selecting them for future games. They showed commitment, discipline, determination and will to win and the quality of football complimented the mental attributes of each youngster perfectly. The one player I believe encapsulates everything Jose Mourinho likes his players to have is Axel Tuanzebe. These traits include composure, intelligence and ability in abundance as well as potential future captain qualities.
Demi Mitchell was another who impressed displaying plenty skill and work rate at left back. The teenager who has previously played in the number 10 role and as a left winger, showed his versatility and his technical ability when taking Palace players on. Joel Pereira in goals was solid and did everything required of him with no problems at all. Despite having little to do throughout the game, when called upon he was there and ready to respond.
Josh Harrop was another debutant in the United starting team and arguably the best of the lot, scoring 15 minutes into the game and providing an attacking threat down the left hand side throughout. He looked comfortable in possession, passed the ball well and his distribution was superb. Angel Gomes another headline-maker as he came on in the 88th minute and became the first player born in 2000 to play in the Premier League. Even though he was only on the field for a few minutes, he looked good in possession, displaying comfort and confidence.
Other younger players on the pitch included Fosu-Mensah and Scott McTominay. Fosu-Mensah at right back and showed confidence, determination and plenty of commitment. He went into each and every tackle strong and fair and faced up to the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Van Aanholt comfortably. Scott McTominay was also impressive, despite not makng any headlines, him, Pogba and Tuanzebe controlled the midfield superbly. The Lancaster born midfielder’s distribution was great and he read the game well too.
One other performance stood out, that performance came from Paul Pogba. The Frenchman returned after the death of his father in fantastic fashion. He quickly imposed himself on the game by getting an assist 15 minutes in and then scoring the second two or three minutes later. Most would expect this from him but this was a great performance even by his high standards.
Good Way To End The Season
This is an impressive, positive way to end the season and put a smile back on a lot of previously unhappy United fans’ faces as there is not much better than seeing young players come through and produce good performances and results. Despite not effecting the league position at all, it increases their momentum going into the final in Stockholm.
This can prove to be the difference as going 4 or 5 games without winning can really affect a team’s mindset but now they’ve got that win under their belts, players can grow in confidence at a crucial time and really go for it. This game in Sweden defines United’s season and possibly even impacts potential signings in the upcoming transfer window.
The Last 24 Hours
I would like to get on record my full support for everyone affected by the recent tragedy in Manchester and I would also like to praise Manchester for their ability to unite in the face of adversity. I hope this unity inspires Manchester United and spurs them on to win the game for their city.
Finally, I would like to express my deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones and to those who have lost their lives, rest in peace.
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