Manchester United Academy graduate John O’Shea admits it was so much easier to make the transition to the first team when the club was successful.
The Irishman – now captain of the Sunderland side that beat United 2-1 on Saturday – says there is now “that bit more pressure” on players like Jesse Lingard, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and the latest debutant Donald Love.
Louis van Gaal may be missing out on his primary target of Champions League football but he is certainly showing faith in youngsters, even if is forced by injury.
“I was a young lad coming into a team, but that was after winning the league,” he said. “It was that bit easier. If you are coming into a team that is not first or second in the table, there is that bit more pressure.
“You will see with managers, they want to bring in young players when the team is doing well. But United’s hand has been forced because of the injuries they’ve had.”
O’Shea admits that United have lost their aura, saying: “Because of the season they are having and the amount of injuries they have got, it is difficult for them [to retain their aura].
“They still have some very good attacking players. I thought our full-backs did particularly well in closing them down, but they don’t have as many players as they used to have.
“That said, they had only lost once in 2016 before here. They have been getting a lot of credit recently. They are still a very good team, but, they are not challenging where they want to be in the table, that’s for sure.
“Champions League qualification is the minimum target for them. That is the given beforehand, when you look at the squads and the budgets, and what is spent at clubs to get into the Champions League.
“Not just Man United, the top five and six spend big to get into the Champions League, because that is where the rewards are and that is what attracts bigger and better players.
“That is the challenge they have and they are having to adjust. It’s difficult for them. The quality in the Premier League is increasing.”