After watching Manchester United's under-23s beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 at Old Trafford last Monday, José Mourinho is set to play a number of youngsters in his side's final Premier League game of the season, a meaningless home tie against Crystal Palace.
The Portuguese watched from the stands alongside assistant Rui Faria and was clearly impressed by the individual brilliance of Josh Harrop shown on Monday night as the attacking midfielder scored a hat-trick in the under-23s closing fixture of the season. Also impressing was Zak Dearnley.
Harrop earns debut chance after hat-trick
Harrop and right-winger Dearnley, who has spent the majority of this season playing at under-18 level, are two of seven under-23 players set to be involved in the first team on Sunday.
"Sunday will be a big day for the kids because lots of them are going to play," Mourinho said. "I hope the crowd enjoys that, in spite of it not being a big, strong Manchester United team."
Centre-back Axel Tuanzebe played his third game for the club, in midfield, in a 0-0 draw against Southampton and will play a part once more. As will midfielder Scott McTominay, who made his debut against Arsenal and will now hope for his first full start. Demi Mitchell is in line for his debut, the converted left-back has been involved in a number of first team squads since being nominated for U23 Player of the Year.
Joel Pereira to start vs Palace
Portuguese goalkeeper Joel Pereira, a player Mourinho tipped to be Portugal's best goalkeeper in a generation, will start over Europa League final goalkeeper Sergio Romero and David de Gea. He made his debut as a substitute in the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic.
"I hope to play Joel against Crystal Palace. He’s a very good goalkeeper so we’re in safe hands. Joel is playing his first match in the Premier League. The kid also deserves this."
Mourinho initially refused to name the other youngsters set to be involved, but then told reporters.
"I will bring Mitchell, he was on the bench. [Scott] McTominay, he was on the bench. Of course, Axel [Tuanzebe]. Of course, Eric Bailly and [Matty] Willock will come too. Josh Harrop will come. Zachary [Dearnley] will come.
"Pogba will come because Paul is not training or playing since his dad passed away. I will put two or three of my boys rotating during the game, making some changes to save them, but I need to give a little structure of four or five of my boys to give some stability to the kids. I don't think, by themselves, they will be in [the right] conditions to play the game."
Half of Man United's matchday squad could be academy products
His final quote seems to suggest an involvement from the start for most of the players named in this article, and with Paul Pogba also involved in some form, half of Manchester United's matchday could be academy produced if one of Jesse Lingard or Marcus Rashford is also in it.
Needs must for Mourinho, hence these call-ups for young players. It is by no means a sudden epiphany regarding youth for a manager typically resistant to promoting youngsters. However, it's a fantastic experience for seven under-23 players to play at Old Trafford when it's full, rather than when three stands are closed like last Monday night for the under-23s.