Nicky Butt believes a fresh batch of Manchester United Academy graduates are ready to help the first team when needed, after Jose Mourinho named James Garner and Mason Greenwood on the bench for Wednesday's Champions League defeat to Valencia.
Our Head of Academy and Under-19s coach expressed that opinion after the fine 2-1 comeback victory over Valencia’s youngsters in the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday afternoon. The spirited win was the fifth of a group-stage campaign that yielded 16 points and 20 goals in total.
Garner and Greenwood were both set to feature in that game, before Mourinho and the first team came calling. Butt feels James and Mason have inspired the rest of his youth players to follow in their footsteps after making their first breakthrough.
“It is massive for Jimmy and Mason,” Nicky told us in Valencia.
“I spoke to them before they were going. It is a great experience to be involved with Man United's first team for a Champions League game, first and foremost, but if you can get on the pitch or on the bench then it is even better!
“There are one or two in our Under-19s squad who could quite easily have been there as well. It is just unfortunate in terms of positioning, because they are more than capable of doing it. They deserve a chance pretty soon.
“But this just goes to show that the manager does give the young ones a chance and it keeps our other lads' hopes up in the changing room.”
TOP PLAYERS, BUT ALSO TOP BOYS
Juan Mata, who started the match against his former club Valencia, knows what it takes to make it in professional football and the intelligent 31-year-old is impressed by our youngsters’ attitudes so far.
“I'm really, really happy that they are here with us because they are fantastic players, but especially because they are great kids,” Mata said of Garner and Greenwood this week.
“The way they behave, the way they speak, the way they train. They really deserve to be here.
“I think it speaks very well about the Manchester United Academy and the quality we have coming through. I wish them the best and really think they can be very important players for the club in the near future. But what I like most about them, apart from their footballing qualities, is the way they are - their personalities. They are very, very nice guys.”
In the end, Garner and Greenwood both watched from the bench as United were beaten 2-1 in the final Group H match.
Yet the experience of training with the seniors, travelling to Spain and observing the first-team environment will clearly benefit their education.
OTHERS ARE READY TO STEP UP
As Butt has stated, there are several players in the Academy system who are capable of making the step up.
Under-19s captain Angel Gomes has already made two senior appearances, of course, against Crystal Palace in 2016/17 and Yeovil Town in 2017/18.
Tahith Chong was recently named on the first-team bench when Juventus visited Old Trafford in the Champions League, while Aidan Barlow was pictured training with the first team ahead of the win over Young Boys late last month.
Josh Bohui, Ethan Hamilton and Ro-Shaun Williams were also part of the youthful group that joined the pre-season tour of America.