The likelihood of Louis van Gaal completing his three-year deal as Manchester United manager seems incredibly slim, yet there are at least a dozen reasons he should be allowed to do just that.
Paddy McNair, Jesse Lingard, Saidy Janko, Tom Thorpe, Reece James, Tyler Blackett, Andreas Pereira, Guillermo Varela, Donald Love, Marcus Rashford, Regan Poole, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
Let’s call them the Carrington 12.
All are players from the club’s youth setup who have been given their competitive debut in the season-and-a-half the Dutchman has been at the United helm.
Not all have made good on the chances afforded them by the Iron Tulip (Janko, Thorpe and James have all left the club permanently), yet three quarters remain on the books and in a state of upward mobility.
Lingard and Borthwick-Jackson in particular, have shown themselves more than capable of holding down their first-team places, while Rashford’s two-goal dream debut against Midtjylland hint that he may yet go on to emulate them.
It’s hard to imagine anywhere near as many home-farmed prospects getting their chance under Jose Mourinho, the favourite to succeed the manager he once assisted at Barcelona. Let alone the repeated opportunities in meaningful matches Van Gaal has afforded them.
The traversability of the route from youth ranks to first team, illustrated through the fairytale rise of the ‘Class of ’92’, is one of the central tenets of the post-Sir-Alex-Ferguson Man Utd mythology.
Van Gaal is keeping that tradition alive amid the identity crisis engulfing Old Trafford since Ferguson and former chief executive David Gill departed the club. Mourinho would doubtless extinguish it.
The much-mourned attacking football of the Fergie days is unlikely to return under the Portuguese. Nor can it be taken for granted that he will get them winning again on this season’s evidence.
If United are serious about regaining and retaining the ideals of their years under the great Scot, they could do worse than allow Van Gaal his third and final season to continue his excellent work in blooding young players who may yet go on to form the basis of the side during the next decade.