Manchester United can build around cracking youngsters but will only keep them if they grow together

Steven Chicken
Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo celebrate winning the FA Cup
Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo are two youngsters Manchester United can build a revolution around

Manchester United’s FA Cup win was a shock, but the players who took the spotlight on the day were not.

If there has been one silver lining to take out of an overall dismal season, lightened by that successful day out at Wembley and the Europa League qualification that comes with it, it has been the emergence and development of Manchester United’s youngsters, supported capably by the generally dependable creative spark of Bruno Fernandes.

Manchester United youngsters won’t have endless patience

Other kids have had their chance to shine on other days, including Rasmus Hojlund and Amad, but here this day belonged to two of their teammates. Alejandro Garnacho scored United’s first, set up a disallowed second, then played a key part in creating the actual second for Kobbie Mainoo, who the two future kings watching from the royal box can confirm is the crown jewel Manchester United can build their impending revolution around.

But the thing about revolutions is that they are transitory moment between one era and another – and keeping those players at Old Trafford for the long term requires them to prove a level of ambition and capability that matches those players’ obvious talents.

Club loyalty was proven to be an illusion the moment Jean-Marc Bosman stepped out of the European Court of Justice with a judgment secured in his favour. Calling the modern footballer a mercenary and harkening back to the days when one-club men were not uncommon is to overlook that they had previously effectively been held to servitude.

Had they not been, we might have learned sooner what we now know: talented players will, on the whole, seek clubs concomitant with their abilities and ambitions. If clubs can’t provide evidence that they can share a trajectory together, they will look elsewhere.

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Liverpool suffered from a spate of penny-drops before Jurgen Klopp came in and brought those assurances to Anfield. Steven Gerrard would have departed for Chelsea had it not been for their 2005 Champions League comeback. Fernando Torres saw which way the wind was blowing in 2011 and actually did make that move. Four years later, Raheem Sterling jumped ship to Manchester City; his own weather vane about the course Liverpool were on was slightly wonky, actually, but it was hard to blame him at the time.

There is almost no cause célèbre too big to risk becoming a bête noire, as United well know themselves from their own bitter experience with Carlos Tevez, who somehow marked himself out as the most prescient of all footballers by joining Sir Alex Ferguson out the door to join City in 2013.

The arrival of a new regime at United offers enough promise to keep Garnacho, Mainoo, Hojlund et al. satisfied for now, but they will know that will not last forever unless there is tangible improvement to point to.

Happily for United, the flipside is the whole thing could become a virtuous circle. They can use this grace period to put those players at the heart of an increasingly successful side; they’ve already shown they can win things with these kids.

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