The kids are alright: Louis van Gaal’s academy graduates

Manchester United boss has handed out 14 debuts to academy players during tenure

Louis van Gaal has given debuts to 14 academy players since taking over at Manchester United – seven in the opening two months of last season and seven to date in this campaign (with six of those this in February). While the manager's hand has been forced by a litany of injuries, his faith in youth is one of few beacons of light from his tenure.

Jesse Lingard – Swansea (Premier League), August 16th 2014

Having spent time on loan at Leicester, Birmingham and Brighton during the Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes eras, Van Gaal put Lingard into his team for his first league game in charge against Swansea. However 24 minutes in the Warrington-born winger injured a knee and when he returned to fitness midway through the season was loaned to Derby. He has subsequently become a regular this season, scoring five goals in 23 appearance.

Tyler Blackett – Swansea (Premier League), August 16th 2014


The defender also made his first start in Van Gaal’s opening league game, which ended in a 2-1 defeat, having featured heavily in pre-season. He continued at centre-half for the opening few games but was sent off in the memorable 5-3 defeat in Leicester on 21 September. The Mancunian was loaned to Celtic for this season, where he has failed to make an impact.

Saidy Janko – MK Dons (Capital One Cup), August 26th 2014

Another to have ended up in Glasgow, the Switzerland Under-21 international had the ignominy of starting at right-back in the skewering at Milton Keynes. He was replaced by Andreas Pereira at half-time, loaned to Bolton later in the season and sold to Ronny Deila's Celtic in the summer. He started the season in the team but sustained a knee injury in October. He has recently regained fitness.

Andreas Pereira – MK Dons (Capital One Cup), August 26th 2014

After being sprung from the bench in that 4-0 defeat, the Belgian-born Brazilian had to wait until March of last season for another chance, replacing Juan Mata for the final 13 minutes of a 3-0 win over Tottenham. He has featured nine times from the bench this season and started twice in the Capital One Cup, scoring in the 3-0 win over Ipswich on 23 September.

Reece James – MK Dons (Capital One Cup), August 26th 2014

The third debutant against MK Dons, James played the full 90 minutes but failed to make an impact and was loaned to Rotherham and Huddersfield last season. Deemed surplus to demands in the summer, Van Gaal sold the Lancashire-born 22-year-old to League One Wigan, where he has featured regularly. He is the younger brother of Matty, who is now at Leicester but has missed the season to date after sustaining a serious knee injury in May.

Paddy McNair – West Ham (Premier League) September 27th, 2014

The Northern Irishman benefited from the shortage in defensive options to make an impressive start in a red shirt – United won each of his four starts – before senior players regained fitness and he fell back down the pecking order. The 20-year-old has made three league starts this season, with four more appearances from the bench, and has been adequate backup.

Tom Thorpe – West Ham (Premier League), September 27th, 2014

The Mancunian defender, who previously captained the Under-21 team, was introduced four minutes into injury time in the 2-1 win over West Ham, replacing Ángel Di María, but did not feature again. He was sold to Championship strugglers Rotherham in the summer, where he has also struggled to make an impact. He has not played since November, making five starts and two appearances from the bench.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson – West Bromwich Albion (Premier League), November 7th 2015

Since making his debut from the bench, replacing Marco Rojo after 76 minutes, in the 2-0 win, the 19-year-old defender has featured regularly, starting five league games and making another three appearances from the bench while featuring in the FA Cup and, briefly, in the Champions League against Wolfsburg. He joined the club as a six-year-old and has been playing for the Under-21s since turning 16.

Donald Love – Sunderland (Premier League) February 13th 2016

The first of half a dozen to be given a debut in a little more than a fortnight, the Scotland Under-21 defender, who spent the opening segment of the campaign on loan at Wigan, replaced Matteo Darmian early on in the defeat at Sunderland and made his first start in the first-leg Europa League defeat to Midtjylland.

Joe Riley – Shrewsbury (FA Cup), February 22nd 2016

Comfortable at left-back and midfield, the 19-year-old from Blackpool came on for Borthwick-Jackson at half-time of the 3-0 Cup win having impressed for the Under-21s. He started the second leg against Midtjylland, lasting 79 minutes before being taken off for Rojo.

Marcus Rashford – Midtjylland (Europa League), February 25th 2016

Initially named on the bench, the 18-year-old striker was thrust into the team for the crucial tie after Anthony Martial suffered a hamstring injury in the warmup. And what an impression he made – scoring twice in the 5-1 win to ensure progress to the last 16, before retaining his place for the league game against Arsenal, where he scored another brace.

Regan Poole – Midtjylland (Europa League), February 25th 2016

Signed as an academy player from Newport in September, the defender, who was born midway through the 1998 World Cup, was deemed surplus to requirements at Cardiff in 2014. The childhood United fan replaced Ander Herrera late in the 5-1 victory at Old Trafford.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah – Arsenal (Premier League) February 28th 2016

Signed from Ajax last season, he is quite imposing for an 18-year-old and has impressed in Warren Joyce’s Under-21s. Happy playing across the back or in midfield, he replaced Rojo 10 minutes into the second half of the 3-2 win over Arsenal.

James Weir – Arsenal (Premier League) February 28th 2016

The 20-year-old midfielder appeared for the final few seconds against Arsène Wenger’s team, coming on four minutes into added time for Ander Herrera. From Preston, he is held in high regard by the club’s academy coaches and is tipped for a promising future.

(Guardian service)