Manchester United ‘stimulated’ by youth players

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Regan Poole smiles during a Manchester United training session ahead of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg match against FC Midtjylland at the Aon Training Complex on February 24, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Regan Poole smiles during a Manchester United training session ahead of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg match against FC Midtjylland at the Aon Training Complex on February 24, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images) /
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Manchester United will be without familiar faces against Midtjylland

Manchester United are in the midst of a severe injury crisis, but Louis van Gaal anticipated it happening and believes it is helping the youth players.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Guillermo Varela are the first names that come to mind of reserves players that have made their senior debuts under van Gaal. Both full-backs have dealt with injuries of their own, but when healthy they have exceeded even the highest of expectations. Borthwick-Jackson had his best match in Manchester United’s 3-0 shellacking of Stoke, while Varela has been consistent despite his more inconsistent appearances.

Donald Love and Joe Riley joined their reserves teammates as senior players when they debuted for the Red Devils. Love replaced an injured Matteo Darmian at half time of the Sunderland loss then started the first leg of the Europa League tie with Midtjylland. Riley made his first appearance as a substitute for Borthwick-Jackson against Shrewsbury.

Marcus Rashford and Regan Poole could potentially further the list of debutantes if they are involved against Midtjylland in the second leg, while Joel Castro Pereira is available behind Sergio Romero.

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All of the youth players’ debuts have been positives in a largely negative season for Manchester United, one riddled with injuries and disappointment. Van Gaal, however, seemingly anticipated such events months ago, as he eluded to while speaking with MUTV:

"“Of course that’s also why we had a small squad at the beginning of the season because you can then give chances to the young players. I’m always really convinced of youth players and how they can stimulate the other players and raise the atmosphere in the dressing room. Those kinds of things are happening now. I’m also always convinced that they play their first match very well and maybe the second, but when you get to the third it’s about consistency and that’s very important for youth players.”"

The involvement of the United youth has been the manager’s biggest contribution to the squad’s long term future. While we may not see the immediate effects, the newest crop of players could go on to have lengthy careers in Manchester.

Unfortunately, the pressure on the Dutch manager to win has reached a boiling point, and the current injury situation is only making matters worse. Van Gaal further spoke to MUTV on the season’s prospects and how the injury crisis has affected matters:

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"“It is so important [to get players back from injury] because I can never play with the same line-up. I always have to change because we have a lot of players [injured] in the same position so I have to sort positions that are not typical for the players who have to play there. So it is very difficult and with a small selection now, around 13 or 14 [senior] players, you cannot play a full programme.”“We are still in three competitions, not many clubs can say that but we can. We want that to continue because the Europa League is important as it can give us a Champions League position and the FA Cup is a cup that we haven’t won for a long time. Also we’re still fifth in the league and we can still finish in the top four at the end of the season.”"

While Manchester United technically still are competing in three competitions, the team lost early in the League Cup and replaced their Champions League schedule with a Europa League schedule after failing to reach the knockout stages. Moreover, the goal at the beginning of the season was to compete for the Premier League crown, not merely to finish in the top four. It looks as though Louis van Gaal is trying to mask his underachievement, but supporters won’t be that forgiving.

Next: Mata demands Europa League success

This Europa League tie could be the manager’s last match in charge and Manchester United’s last hope of Champions League qualification – if it doesn’t go the team’s way.