Manchester United’s success at the end of last season and this campaign so far has raised the bar.
Champions League qualification meant there was no room for experimental line-ups like in last seasons Europa League group stages.
A solid run of domestic form has meant that even seasoned professionals like Juan Mata and Donny van de Beek have struggled for game time.
So we are in the position that even a youth-backing manager like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not handed a first team debut to an academy player this season.
The one exception is Dean Henderson, now 23, who spent the previous three seasons out on loan to take the long route, rather than actually being promoted straight from the academy.
The challenge for Solskjaer now is that he has a group of emerging young players he might not be able to hold back for too much longer.
Amad Diallo will be fast-tracked soon. Shola Shoretire trained with the first team on Monday, while Hannibal Mejbri is also pushing for a call-up with excellent performances for the under-23s.
So how can Solskjaer go about integrating them to the first team this season? There are three ways he could do so…
Put them straight in
Solskjaer could adopt the ‘sink or swim’ approach. This is the least likely of all three, based on how the United boss has operated to this point.
This approach would see Solskjaer removing his caution and start using Diallo, Shoretire and Mejbri in Premier League games. It will be tough to implement, with bench spots limited.
United are in a strong league position and want to maintain that. Solskjaer will not want to create too much disruption among his attacking options despite the talent of the emerging trio. Diallo is probably the only one who has a chance here.
Use the Europa League
United were unlucky to land a tough draw in the Europa League against La Liga side Real Sociedad.
Even so, the competition feels less important than the Champions League and United are likely to take a somewhat experimental approach.
Diallo has a good chance of featuring in one of the two legs, and it would not be a surprise if Mejbri or Shoretire make it onto the bench.
Wait for the final games
United may be lagging behind City in the race for first position at present, but we are five points clear of third placed Liverpool.
We are six points clear of fifth placed Chelsea. While this is a gap which could be breached as there is a long way to go, United could quite easily wrap up Champions League qualification with a match or two to spare.
Solskjaer could be gambling and waiting on these games becoming ‘lower stakes’ for United before experimenting. This was how he handed Mason Greenwood his debut at the end of 2018/19, against Cardiff.
Diallo will not be able to wait this long, but Shoretire and Mejbri could be held back until the final game or two.
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