Academy the core behind United's PSG success
Three key positions, three big performances in defence, midfield and attack during Manchester United’s excellent 2-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
The spine of the side consisted of Academy graduates Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford, showing their character and quality on the Champions League stage against high-profile and world-class opponents such as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
These boys honed their craft at the Aon Training Complex and are an absolute credit to the club. The pride that radiates from such a performance is magnified by those within the building who have worked with the players from an early age, shaping the sort of individual that can go toe-to-toe with the very best.
Axel’s mental strength and composure in returning after 10 months on the sidelines in such a setting was awe inspiring, and it is little wonder he earned special praise from his manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, afterwards. The feeling should be reciprocated because it was a big call from the boss to start the 22-year-old and further illustration, if any was needed, that he has faith in those brought up the United way.
McTominay lost a contact lens in the first half but kept his eyes on the prize as he marauded around midfield, nullifying the home side’s midfielders and keeping close tabs on the likes of Neymar, in particular. It was a fascinating tussle and, even though the Scotland international was booked in the first half, he stuck to his task with the sort of discipline and commitment that mark him out as a real team player.
There is not much more that can be said about matchwinner Rashford, who repeated his heroics at the Parc des Princes in 2019 with another late goal. The England forward is rightly receiving all manner of plaudits for his off-field work in fighting child poverty but his on-pitch performances also demand attention.
He had been lively throughout the tie before firing low past Keylor Navas in the PSG goal with three minutes of normal time remaining. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and that is certainly true of Marcus, in many respects.
So there has always been this homegrown thread running through United’s successful teams. Football in 2020 may look vastly different to what it did in 1968, and even 2008, but there is one constant for followers of this great club.
No matter the size of the occasion or the task in hand, there will always be a desire to showcase the talent that we have produced ourselves and raised the Manchester United way.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.