Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal arrived at the club last summer with a reputation for honing young talent and has been quick to place his trust in young homegrown talent at Old Trafford.
Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett, Jesse Lingard and James Wilson all featured in the Premier League last season, while 18-year-old left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson made his debut against West Brom on Saturday.
Axel Tuanzebe also claimed a place on the bench against Crystal Palace earlier this month as the wheels at the Carrington academy keep on turning.
The 2-0 win against the Baggies marked the 3,764 consecutive games in which the Red Devils had a youth player in the squad, a run which stretches back to October 1937 – a hugely impressive feat.
Cam the man: Borthwick-Jackson was the 245th youth player to make the Red Devils first-team squad
But who will be the next player to earn a place in the first-team squad?
We run the rule over five young talents that are looking to make the step up.
Possibly the most skillful player at the Manchester United academy, Callum Gribbin got the club’s social media team so excited last season that they rushed to Twitter to post a video of his chief party trick, as he nutmegged a pair of Aston Villa Under-18s.
Louis van Gaal was obviously paying attention, as he called the 16-year-old up to first-team training ahead of the Red Devils’ tour to America in the summer. He has also starred in this season’s UEFA Youth League, playing in all four of the young Red Devils’ group games and netting in the 3-0 win at PSV.
A fleet-footed winger by trade, Gribbin isn’t lacking on confidence by the look of his Twitter page, and he brings that swagger to the pitch, never afraid to take on an opponent and utilise the bag of tricks that he has in his locker.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 26, 2015
This feisty attitude got him in trouble with his coaches, as he tweeted his anger at being benched for an Under-18 clash against Manchester City, but has since penned a new four-year contract at Old Trafford, as he looks to put that incident behind him.
If he is to take his game to the next level he will probably need to bulk up and turn in more consistent performances, but in terms of raw talent, Gribbin is certainly one of the most exciting prospects currently at Carrington. Louis van Gaal’s recently claimed that he needs players with “speed and creativity” – and Gribbin certainly has that in his locker.
Manchester United moved to snap up the highly-rated youngster from Ajax last summer and if he is able to reach his potential, the Red Devils will have a real star on their hands.
His size belittles his tender years, with the 17-year-old looking like his is physically ready to make the step up to United’s Under-21 team already.
Able to play at centre-back or further forwards as a central midfielder, Fosu-Mensah adheres to the Dutch traditions of being technically excellent with the ball, as he has a good footballing brain on his shoulders.
He also has pace and the kind of attitude that could see him emerge as a leader as his career develops. He last month signed a three-year deal at the club, so United should give him plenty of time to reach his potential.
READ MORE: Who is Cameron Borthwick-Jackson?
A tenacious central midfielder, Oldham-born Pearson has been at the club for eleven years and is currently on a second loan spell at Barnsley.
The England Under-20 international impressed so much on loan at Oakwell last season that Tykes boss Lee Johnson, has described him as “the first name on the team-sheet,” before snapping him up again until January.
Given the plethora of midfield options that Louis van Gaal can call upon following the summer acquisitions of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger, Pearson has done the right thing in crossing the Pennines to get some minutes under his belt, but he has the skillset to eventually force his way into the first-team squad.
A destroyer in the middle of the park who can also combine the dirty work with tidy passing, Pearson has drawn plenty of comparisons with United’s last great midfielder from Oldham – a certain Paul Scholes, not least because he can sometimes be a tad rash in the tackle.
If he can learn to curb this habit of jumping in with too much gusto and work on getting forward more often, Pearson may well give Van Gaal something to think about in the future.
While Pearson has been compared to Paul Scholes, guess who pacey left-winger Demetri Mitchell has been likened to?
Yup, while comparing an 18-year-old to Ryan Giggs is a pointless exercise all round, it gives an indication as to how highly rated the Red Devils starlet is around Carrington.
Fast, skillful and oozing technique, Mitchell can use both feet and has starred for the Manchester United Under-18 and 21 sides and has an eye for the spectacular goal.
Able to use space well and exploit he opponents in a one-on-one situation, the Manchester-born teenager is also a set-piece specialist.
His next logical port of call should be a loan move where he is able to taste regular first-team football, as the arrival of Memphis Depay has putting him further down the pecking order at Old Trafford – but again, Van Gaal’s call for “speed and creativity” could see Mitchell get a chance.
He has time on his side though and if a player this talented is unable to eventually force his way into the first-team picture, then questions should be asked.
Snapped up from Exeter City in 2012, Goss has progressed nicely through United’s youth team set-up and was rewarded for his hard work with a place on this summer’s first-team tour to America.
The midfielder was a key part of United’s Under-21 title winning side last term, with his tidy, crisp passing and efficiency in possession drawing comparisons to Michael Carrick, as reserve boss Warren Joyce talked him up:
“He’s a dependable lad and has got it all sorted when the ball comes to him with his pass selection. His technique is good and he’s worked really hard,” said Joyce.
The German-born 20-year-old is at his best as a sitting midfielder as he has that underrated talent of being able to let his team-mates around him tick.