Giving Jose Mourinho the hot seat at Manchester United would not only flush Van Gaal’s two years of youth development down the drain; but is also a slap in the face to the club’s legacy of grooming young talents.
With the 3-0 defeat to Spurs over the weekend effectively snuffing out United’s chances of coming in 4th and qualifying for the Champions League next season, Louis van Gaal’s stock at the club has never been lower while rumours abound about Jose Mourinho’s impending arrival. Indeed, the media is awash with stories about the players that Mourinho has on his wishlist when he eventually lands the job at Old Trafford.
Yet hiring the brooding combative Portuguese is exactly what Manchester United should not be doing. His appointment would only serve to destroy one of the few positives of Van Gaal’s reign – the promotion and development of young players.
While his managerial record is the envy of all managers, except for Pep Guardiola; Mourinho’s track record with young players stands in stark contrast. Throughout his career in Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Madrid, it is apparent that his strength lies largely in building a team for the present that will burn brightly for a brief period of time.
Mourinho’s appreciation of young talent has come under increased scrutiny with a number of former Chelsea players blossoming after Mourinho decided to jettison them. Romelu Lukaku’s 18 goals in the Premier League this season is 7 more than what Diego Costa has managed with far less disciplinary baggage. Kevin de Bruyne’s return from injury has revitalised a Manchester City side that looked to have lost their way in recent weeks. Mohamed Salah was barely given a chance before being shipped off on loan to first Fiorentina then Roma where he has flourished. With John Terry the last academy success at Chesea, clearly Mourinho has an aversion to grooming younger talents, especially when he is expected to bring instant success.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford – these players amongst many others, have been given a opportunity to make the step up under Van Gaal this season. And they have at times, even overshadowed their more illustrious team mates. While a crippling injury list might be in part the reason why Van Gaal threw them into the deep end, it is undeniable that Marcus Rashford was only able to shine because United did not bring someone in during the January transfer window.
The emergence and blossoming of young players has always been a source of great pride for supporters. Spurs fans lustily sing that Harry Kane is one of their own and the recent brilliance of 18-year-old Alex Iwobi has been one of the few bright sparks for disillusioned Arsenal supporters in yet another season of disappointment. At United, the importance of youth is arguably even more important. After all, both the Busby Babes and Fergie’s Class of ’92 hold a special place in the hearts of all United fans.
Having handed 14 Academy players their débuts during his time at the club, if United now dispense with Van Gaal and draft in Mourinho, it would effectively be writing off the last two years of youth development under Louis van Gaal in exchange of the hope of instant success. Worst still, it would send a strong signal that Manchester United’s proud storied legacy of youth development is nothing more than a thing of the past.