Louis van Gaal has rejected the notion that Marcus Rashford saved his job, instead saying the teenager epitomises the trust in young players that Manchester United fans should be thanking him for.
There have been plenty of peaks and troughs at Old Trafford this season, with the 18-year-old’s remarkable breakthrough certainly fitting into the former category.
Thrown in against FC Midtjylland after a warm-up injury to Anthony Martial, Rashford netted a brace to help United win that do-or-die Europa League clash.
Another double a few days later in the 3-2 victory over Arsenal increased the feel-good factor and alleviated the pressure mounting on manager Van Gaal.
Talk of Jose Mourinho replacing him has quietened, if not disappeared, since Rashford burst on to the scene, but the Dutchman was clearly irked by suggestions the teenager saved his job.
“(The young players) want to prove and they want to show to the world, to the manager, to everybody, that they are the best, so they always give spirit to a team,” Van Gaal said.
“That is why we have decided not to invest in January and I have said that already two months ago, but you don’t want to believe it. The policy is to have a small selection and then you can give youngsters a chance.
“Now I have read that Rashford is saving me. No, no, Rashford is thanks to my policy, and the club, of course, (and he) has proved that.
“He is there because of that and the same thing for (Cameron) Borthwick-Jackson, (Guillermo) Varela and a lot of other players.
“But they have to prove it because it is very risky to do that. Youngsters are not consistent, we are talking about consistency.
“There are of course exceptions like Martial, but that is a big exception.
“Most of the players cannot show that every week, so it is a big risk, but, at the end, we are in three competitions still and the team has more spirit and the older players are coming back.
“So we have a great momentum at this moment because we have discovered that a lot of players can play at this level and the older players have to compete with these youngsters.
“And it’s fantastic and that is also what I have experienced at my other teams, so I think it’s always good to have youngsters in your selection.”
That injection of youth certainly looks to be paying dividends, given United head to West Brom on Sunday looking to extend their winning run to a fifth successive match.
Van Gaal’s men need three points to keep the pressure on fourth-placed Manchester City, who head into the weekend with a game in hand but level on points with their rivals.
It now makes qualifying for the Champions League via the Barclays Premier League a genuine possibility, which would no doubt make it easier to attract players to Old Trafford this summer.
Whether Van Gaal is still in charge at that point remains to be seen, but the Dutchman’s suggestion that the club’s young players can use the rest of the campaign to disprove the need for reinforcements should get a positive response.
“Of course, yes,” he said when asked if their emergence could affect his transfer policy. “Also in January that we took the risk for the left-back position that we didn’t buy.
“We needed a left-back and we inquired about a lot of players. Some have said it now.
“It is always the agent that is doing that because it is interesting Man United is inquiring, but we said, ‘Okay, maybe Borthwick-Jackson and Varela can do the job’.
“There was Spanish interest in Varela and we said no because of that.”