Manchester United sent some youngsters on loan and kept others at the club, but did they do the right thing?
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal had decisions to make regarding many of his young players this season – to loan or not to loan.
When it came to the likes of Nick Powell, Wilfried Zaha and Michael Keane, the Dutchman opted for the former option, sending some of United’s next generation elsewhere to continue their development. While for others, Old Trafford was deemed the best place for them.
Those players included James Wilson and Andreas Pereira, of whom big things are expected. Indeed in the case of Wilson the young striker has already shown what he can do at Old Trafford, scoring a brace on his debut, while Pereira could become one of United’s next great attacking midfielders over time.
But here is the problem: Van Gaal kept the wrong youngsters at the club and – at least in one case – made a mistake granting a player a loan move.
Michael Keane has gained plenty of experience during loan spells at Leicester City, Blackburn Rovers and Derby County; so much so in fact that the 21-year-old already has 53 senior appearances under his belt.
And yet Keane was sent on loan to Burnley only for United to suffer the kind of defensive injury crisis (and malfunction if the 5-3 defeat to Leicester City is anything to go by) that means Michael Carrick is suddenly being hailed as a potential solution at the back when he returns from injury.
At the same time, the young players who were kept at the club are unlikely to see much game-time when you consider the high-profile rivals for their positions.
It is great that Wilson is now regarded as United’s fourth-choice striker option, but with only Premier League and FA Cup matches to play, and with Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney all ahead of him, is he really going to feature for more than a few minutes here and there?
It is no more promising in the short-term for Pereira, who has to compete with the likes of Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata, and as a result is unlikely to enjoy much more than sporadic stints on the bench.
No, in hindsight van Gaal should have kept Keane until at least January – or beyond if he failed to sign another centre-back then – and sent Wilson and Pereira on loan to top flight clubs where they could have shown him just how well they can cope with the rigours of Premier League football.
Then again, perhaps learning from the best will see the two young United players emerge quicker and more effectively. Only time will tell...but they sure could do with Keane.