Marcus Rashford was praised after an “almost perfect game” in his Manchester United debut on Thursday.
The 18-year-old was thrust into his competitive debut for United against FC Midtjylland after injury forced Anthony Martial, who was initially named in the starting line-up, to withdraw from the squad.
Rashford, a United academy product, scored twice to inspire the club to a 5-1 victory, and progression to the Europa League last 16.
Louis van Gaal was delighted with the effect his young players had on the injury-hit side, saying: “I didn’t have another option, so Rashford had to play. The reason he was on the bench in the first place is because he is an ideal substitute for Martial.
“We put in a fantastic performance and that is a great compliment to the guts of the players, especially the younger ones. It cannot have been easy for Rashford and Joe Riley to make their debuts in European competition, with the pressure of knowing we have to win, but they hit a fantastic level. They might not have been expecting to make the first team so soon, but they have just completed an unbelievable step in their development.
“We are looking for consistent strikers, and there aren’t many around.
“What I would say is that I hope we can take the spirit from this game into the next match. Even though we went behind, and then missed a penalty, there was no decline in confidence. We kept attacking, we scored five goals and created many chances. A lot of players reached a higher level today. A score of 5-1 sounds easy but it was not. Midtjylland are a good team, but we put in a great performance.
Midtjylland manager Jess Thorup added: “He played an almost perfect game. He clearly has something, and that is why he is at Manchester United.
“I told the guys not to be too disappointed with the result. It wasn’t the night we had been hoping for but we were beaten by a very good team. I think tonight, even if that wasn’t United’s regular team, we saw the difference between the Premier League and the Danish Super League.”