Manchester United made some interesting moves during the transfer market, most notably after adding Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Leicester City’s star centre-back Harry Maguire. They also signed Daniel James from Swansea, although the 21-year-old winger was not expected to play a prominent role for The Red Devils early on this season.
However, several things changed after the Premier League opening week. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men defeated Chelsea 4-0 while looking impressive on both sides of the ball. But one thing to note is the fact that United have become a younger side. The numbers do not lie.
In the starting XI that played against Chelsea, seven players were 25 years old or younger: Wan-Bissaka (21), Victor Lindelöf (25), Luke Shaw (24), Scott McTominay (22), Andreas Pereira (23), Marcus Rashford (21) and Anthony Martial (23). Out of the remaining four that were older, three are 26 years old (Maguire, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba) and the most veteran player was goalkeeper David De Gea, who’s “only” 28. The Spaniard is quite young for goalkeeping standards.
Better yet, James came off the bench and ended scoring a goal. Martial added another strike and Rashford grabbed a brace during The Red Devils’ convincing win. All these things can mean only one thing for Manchester United. Their youth movement is here to stay and it’s not going anywhere.
Solskjaer’s focus has always been to add young players for an “aging” Manchester United side. And he seems to be thriving in that department so far. Names such as Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Juan Mata – just to name a few – don’t figure to play prominent roles in the Norwegian’s tactical system. One exception might be Alexis Sanchez, who’s already 31 years old and coming off a poor year. But the Chilean needs at least two more weeks to be fit enough for a match.
It’s only one game and the season is quite long. Teams go through rough patches from time to time, and Manchester United will eventually hit one at some point. But it’s undeniable that the team kicked off the season in great shape following an undefeated preseason tour. And who knows? This might be year Manchester United return to the prominent role in the EPL they have missed for much of the decade.
Only this time, the youngsters will do most of the heavy lifting. Something that was quite unusual on the Sir Alex Ferguson days.