Last year, former manager Louis Van Gaal promoted several of Manchester United’s Academy players to the first-team.
While some still have some learning to do, the likes of Marcus Rashford, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Jesse Lingard, Paddy McNair and Timothy Fosu-Mensah all staked their claim for places in the starting eleven.
Now, they will look to impress the new boss – Jose Mourinho – who will not make any kind of compromise for youth, unless they really are good enough.
Last year was a complete disappointment in the league and in Europe for United, although they managed to win the FA Cup and restore some pride and dignity to the team.
But with Mourinho’s arrival, everyone at the club knows that things have to change and bringing in the former self-proclaimed “special one” seems like an inspired decision by the United board.
The Portuguese manager has openly declared that his team want to win everything, they don’t want to be second best and saying he prefers “to be more aggressive” in his approach than his predecessor.
A challenge for the Premier League title looks likely now that the squad is brimming with quality in all departments of the pitch and the former Chelsea boss will be confident that he can challenge for every title this season, despite his claims.
“Of course we are not going to get everything but we want to,” he said, in his first official press conference as Manchester United manager, probably quietly confident that their summer transfer business makes them contenders for a first title since 2012-13.
This year, it is imperative that United compete for everything while also keeping the fans happy. They haven’t seen the kind of football you associate with Manchester United for a long time now and Jose both knows and wants to change that.
“The reality is that when people have year after year of a certain kind of menu, the menu has to change for better or worse,” he continued, speaking to the press.
To compete for all the titles, Mourinho will need all of his players to up their game and especially the younger ones, if they do want to keep playing and not get loaned out in order to gain regular first-team football.
He won’t promote them just for the sake of giving them some action, such as Van Gaal sometimes did. Instead, their promotion to the first-team will be based upon “conviction and decision” in his own words.
Van Gaal introduced plenty of new players to the senior squad and some managed to hold on to their first-team places, with Rashford and Lingard the most obvious examples.
Rashford’s excellent form even led to an England call-up, which was well deserved, although he only managed five minutes for his country at Euro 2016.
But now they have to build on from last year, they have to prove they can be better and that they are good enough to play an important role this year and the UEFA Europa League is an opportunity for them to do just that.
It is a long and exhausting competition, arduous travels to numerous countries and cities, it has its own mental and physical impact on the players, but if they have to prove themselves, there really is no better way this year.
The latest young additions to this team include the highly-rated Alex Tuanzebe, Ro-Shaun Williams and Tyrell Warren among others. They have already been included in this year’s pre-season tour of China which is exciting news for these players, who will surely want to be at 110 per-cent to impress their new manager.
The older graduates, Tyler Blackett and South-American import Guillermo Varela, are expected to leave to make way for new players.
It will also be interesting to see how Jose will use Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson for this season. There have been no bids for a loan deal or a transfer for either of the pair and it looks as though, for now, that they will be staying at Old Trafford.
They now have great leaders to learn from, the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Wayne Rooney will look to provide the inspiration and the motivation to these boys.
But as a result of the new signings, they also have a smaller chance of featuring regularly under Mourinho – meaning their futures appear uncertain.
Regardless, as it stands, a new era is dawning at the Theatre of Dreams, it is a change of guard and one can only hope that these youngsters can make their mark.