Louis Van Gaal’s two years in charge of Manchester United may not be too fondly remembered, but it was an exciting time for members of the club’s academy.
In a piece about how Jesse Lingard has become a key figure for both club and country, Jonathan Liew described Van Gaal’s commitment to developing United’s academy talent as one of the Dutchman’s “underrated legacies”.
We’ve looked at the 15 academy players he handed debuts to, to see how their respective careers have developed since.
Van Gaal’s two years in charge of Manchester United, and the subsequent ups and downs, can be neatly illustrated by Lingard.
After the attacker had spent time on loan at Leicester, Birmingham and Brighton, Van Gaal entrusted the player with a start in his first competitive match in charge of United.
But Lingard had to be replaced due to injury after just 24 minutes of a defeat against Swansea and by the time he returned to fitness, he was sent out on loan yet again, this time to Derby.
The following season marked Lingard’s breakthrough at Old Trafford, and he ended the campaign scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace, which turned out to be Van Gaal’s last in charge of the club.
While many have doubted his ability, Lingard has now made himself a favourite under Jose Mourinho, while he has also worked his way into England’s starting XI.
Alongside Lingard, Rashford is the main success story of Van Gaal’s time. The striker was thrown in for a Europa League tie with Midtjylland after Anthony Martial suffered an injury in the warm-up and stole the headlines with two goals.
Three days later, the teenager scored twice against Arsenal and also bagged the winner in the Manchester derby later that season.
Speaking about his nurturing of Rashford and Lingard, Van Gaal said: “I was very proud, for example, that we won the FA Cup with United and with those players.”
The first player signed by David Moyes, Varela had to bide his time to break into the United side, making 11 appearances in Van Gaal’s final season in charge.
A loan to Eintracht Frankfurt the following campaign did not quite work out as planned as the right-back went for a tattoo days before the German Cup final, only to ultimately miss the match after it became infected.
Varela has since returned to his native Uruguay with Peñarol but is attracting the attention of Benfica, Inter and Roma, at least according to his agent.
Guillermo Varela's mini career revival back in Uruguay has got him a World Cup place. I still often think of his involvement in the first 2 goals against l'arse on Rashford's league debut. Glorious. https://t.co/IVnAr7K5by
— Enda Higgins (@endahiggins88) June 2, 2018
An injury crisis in defence presented McNair with an opportunity in the Red Devils’ starting XI, but he endured a love/hate relationship with Van Gaal.
At one stage Van Gaal suggested McNair could be United’s right-back for the “next 10 years”, but he later criticised the Northern Irishman as “he thought he was a striker” when he gave the ball away high up the pitch in a draw with Leicester.
McNair has since insisted he was played out of position, and his form in midfield for Sunderland in the Championship has led to a move to promotion-chasing Middlesbrough.
Janko’s solitary appearance under Van Gaal was an unhappy one as he was subbed off at half-time in a 4-0 loss at MK Dons in the League Cup.
In a strange twist of fate, the right-back has now replaced new United signing Diogo Dalot at Porto.
Like Janko, Thorpe made just one appearance for United, coming on as a 94th-minute substitute in a win against West Ham.
The defender then dropped into the Football League with spells at Birmingham, Rotherham, Bradford and Bolton before making an eye-catching move to the Indian Super League with ATK.
The younger brother of Leicester City midfielder Matty, James is another youngster whose only United experience came in the thrashing at MK Dons.
After loan moves to Carlisle, Rotherham and Huddersfield, the defender eventually found a home at Wigan, but he was released at the end of the season after three years at the club.
Blackett was one of Van Gaal’s favoured options during the injury crisis, making 12 appearances in 2014-15 and being tipped to become a “great defender” after signing a new deal in 2015.
But a loan spell at Celtic proved unproductive the following season and Blackett was then sold to Reading, where he spent time being nurtured by former United defender Jaap Stam.
Another guy who’s come in for a hell of a lot of stick is Tyler Blackett, but boy was he a transformation today. When you play the game in a simpler fashion it makes players look a hell of a lot better. Well played lad #ReadingFC
— LordCKS (@LordCKS) March 30, 2018
Still on the books at United, Pereira has failed to make another appearance at Old Trafford since Van Gaal departed as manager.
Jose Mourinho instead chose to loan the attacking midfielder out to Grenada and Valencia in La Liga, and according to ESPN, the 22-year-old will wants assurances about a first-team role before deciding on his future.
Love’s record as a United player does not make for happy reading: two appearances, two defeats, one booking, one admittedly very good name.
David Moyes took the defender to Sunderland, but he struggled to establish himself at the Stadium of Light as the Black Cats suffered back-to-back relegations.
Poole made his only appearance for United to date as a late substitute in the big victory over Midtjylland which marked Marcus Rashford’s breakthrough.
The defender has revealed the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Rashford took him under their wing at the club, telling the BBC: “They know it takes time. I get a bit ahead of myself sometimes and they tell me ‘take your time’ and ‘slow down.'”
After spending last season on loan at Northampton, the 20-year-old earned his first call up to Wales’ senior squad under Ryan Giggs.
As the U21s travel to Georgia today, @ReganPoole talks about the recent training camp with Ryan Giggs.
— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) May 31, 2018
After making 14 first-team appearances in 2015-16, Borthwick-Jackson was rewarded with a new long-term contact, but the left-back’s career has stalled since then.
Loan spells at Wolves and Leeds United were both terminated early amid questions about his attitude, and the 21-year-old is now being linked with a move to League One Sunderland.
A 95th-minute substitute appearance against Arsenal was all Weir mustered in a United shirt, and a subsequent move to Hull City has been derailed by terrible misfortune with injuries.
The midfielder has played just seven times for the Tigers after he aggravated an already serious knee injury.
The further we go through this, the more the extent of injuries Van Gaal had to cope with becomes apparent. Riley started the 5-1 win over Midtjylland, with his only other appearance for United coming as a substitute against Shrewsbury just a few days before.
An injury ended a loan spell at Sheffield United, and the defender has gone on to join Bradford City on a permanent deal.
One of United’s biggest hopes, Fosu-Mensah is one of the few players to emerge under Van Gaal and continues to appear under Mourinho.
A year on loan at Crystal Palace saw the Dutchman earn crucial Premier League experience and also make his senior international debut, meaning supporters are eager to see more of the youngster.