Rio Ferdinand thinks that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s presence at Manchester United could see young players opt for a move to Old Trafford rather than Pep Guardiola’s Man City rivals.
Manchester United have always had a rich heritage of blooding young players, although that has gotten slightly lost in recent years, with Jose Mourinho in particular choosing to play tried and tested players rather than youth talents.
However, as highlighted in United’s sensational 3-1 win over PSG last week, which saw the Red Devils finish the game with youngsters Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong on the pitch, Solskjaer is certainly an advocate of the ‘If they are good enough, they are old enough’ train of thought.
While many parents – including former Man Utd players Andy Cole, Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher – have all sent their children to Man City’s academy in recent years, Ferdinand thinks that Solskjaer’s willingness to play young players could see that trend being reversed.
“When you’re playing young players here it breeds confidence, not only from the first team changing room and the under-23s changing room but with the kids who are 13 and 14, who see a pathway to the first team,” Ferdinand told the Telegraph on a visit to Manchester United’s Carrington training ground.
“People are saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to sign for Man United as a kid’. Because I’d argue that for the last six, seven years all the best kids have gone over there [to City]. But if I’m a parent around here now there’s nowhere my kid is going anywhere but Man United if he’s got a choice and he’s deemed good enough because there’s a pathway.
“He [Solskjaer] finished the PSG game with three teenagers on the pitch. We are the best at it [blooding youth]. Fact. But you need someone in the building who looks at the history and says, ‘I’m going to go with the history and on that pathway’.
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows the history of this football club and is determined to bring in young players. You only know [if they are good enough] when you throw them in. And it’s not a token gesture [with him].
“Yes, he’s been forced a little bit [with injuries] but those [young] players aren’t going in there thinking, ‘We’re undervalued or it’s only because players are injured that we’re going in there [to play]’. The manager didn’t mention injuries before that game because it was all positive talk whereas before all I heard was negative vibes.”