Former Manchester United coach explains why Ten Hag needs to be careful with young midfielder

Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen believes Erik ten Hag needs to be careful when assessing the temptation to bring academy prospects into the first team.

In fairness, I don’t think anyone actually needs to tell Ten Hag this because he is not some rookie, who was lucky to land the job on a scratch card. This is someone who has climbed the football ladder as a player and coach in Dutch football.

After managing a club with Ajax’s rich traditions, I’d like to think he knows a thing or two about promoting youth players to senior football.

Two disappointing results as we start a new season doesn’t help. Soon you will hear calls for the young players to be thrown into the deep end and we know that isn’t always the best option.

The manager must find a balance.

Meulensteen says he can see the logic in using more young players if results don’t pick up – but he has his concerns over whether a young player like James Garner would benefit from the current midfield set-up.

“Garner had a very good year at Forest so he has some good experience playing in a team pushing for promotion,” Meulensteen told TalkOfTheDevils. “Does he have all the skills to walk into this Manchester United midfield and give them what they need? It’s a big ask, especially to put him into a team that everybody knows isn’t firing on all cylinders. If you’re not careful you could destroy the boy and that’s not fair on him.

“To be clear this is speaking in protection of James. I’m not saying he’s not good enough. I want to also mention Charlie Savage, because I was very impressed with him in pre-season, he has very good awareness, his understanding of the game and his positioning is great, his use of the ball is very good. He always looks to get the ball forward.”

He thinks it could be a different case for Alejandro Garnacho.

“Garnacho, though, he’s a different kind of player,” he says. “He’s a difference-maker. He’s quick, direct, he gets people up. So if I would use any young player, it would probably be Garnacho.

“There is some excitement about the young players and rightly so but this is a time of great uncertainty at the club. It’s not completely clear about Ronaldo’s future, Erik Ten Hag doesn’t appear to see Marcus as an out-and-out striker.

“I know a lot of supporters would probably be happy to see a lot of young players in the side and they’d get behind an exciting side of prospects who all want to be there with the right attitude. The thing is that the Premier League has improved in such a broad way that Brighton can come to Old Trafford and win deservedly. They’re not the only ones – you have a lot of teams with good international players. To put all the responsibility on young players wouldn’t be fair – they would learn a lot, for sure, but the price is likely to be high in terms of how it would cost them in the long term.”

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