Manchester United were comfortably beaten on the scoreboard when they took on Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon, but the performance was more telling than the result.
The west London outfit grabbed a 4-2 win over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘s side, with three goals in a six-minute spell in the second half ultimately the difference in what was otherwise a fiercely contested game.
Jesse Lingard opened the scoring before QPR scored four through Charlie Austin, a Lyndon Dykes brace and a Moses Odubajo screamer. United then made a host of changes with the young academy bunch of Shola Shoretire, Dylan Levitt and Hannibal Mejbri coming on for a more senior group.
The game changed immediately, with United keeping the ball very well and creating chances more frequently with Anthony Elanga getting himself on the scoresheet towards the end of the game.
While that’s a tiny sample size to go from, it showed an awful lot about the youngsters that were thrown into a tough situation.
They were all comfortable on the ball, hungry to impress and determined to do better than the players they had replaced in the game. They did that, and there’s no reason they couldn’t do that if they replaced them in the squad for the upcoming season.
The likes of Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Daniel James and Jesse Lingard have all had several seasons to show their quality and they either haven’t done so or they are now past their best.
Mata has arguably not been good enough since Jose Mourinho’s arrival at the club, with his influence on games diminishing with each season. He was recently given a new contract, but it was likely more for his role off the pitch than on it.
Pereira struggled massively too in the first-team under Solskjaer, so much so that he was loaned out to Lazio last year when he wasn’t in the manager’s plans anymore. He didn’t have the best of time out in Italy and is now back, taking minutes during the pre-season tour that could be used to help develop the likes of James Garner.
Lingard has shown he has the ability to play in the Premier League, as he did so well with West Ham last season on loan. But he’s shown in the several seasons before that with United that he can’t quite cut it at the level that they want to be at – at the top of the division against teams setting up just to stop you.
While Lingard is definitely a better footballer than the youngsters right now, they won’t get better without game time. Someone like Hannibal has the potential to be one of the best in Europe in his position if developed correctly, so who’s to say he can’t affect the game in a way Lingard hasn’t been able to?
There is an obsession among fans for spending money to bring in an all-star squad but it isn’t necessary right now at Old Trafford.
The young generation of players coming through are some of the best in a while and without being given the chance to shine, they won’t make it to their ceiling or push those limits.
If United part ways with the likes of Pereira, Lingard and James this summer they have options who will make their squad better without spending a penny. They’ll come in hungry, with a point to prove and with the wildcard option of having not featured a lot for opposition to figure them out.
They’ll be on smaller contracts, not as demanding for game time because of their situation and would also further show that Solskjaer and the club really believe in them as talents.
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