Manchester United’s youngsters stepped up to the plate impressively against Crystal Palace – but Jose Mourinho was in too much of a hurry to offer praise.
Ahead of Wednesday’s make-or-break Europa League final against Ajax, the United boss rested numerous key players and handed four young prospects their full debut in the Premier League finale against Palace.
United’s performance belied the starting line-up’s tender average age of 22 years 284 days – their youngest in Premier League history – with Josh Harrop marking his first appearance with a superb effort that kicked off a comfortable 2-0 win against Sam Allardyce’s experienced visitors.
However, Mourinho had little time to give deserved public praise to his young side after the match.
“Don’t ask me too many things because now I am in a final,” he told in-house channel MUTV. “Let me go home, I am in a final now.”
When then asked if he knew his team for the final in Stockholm, the manager replied: “I know, but let me go. I am in a final now.”
Mourinho was even briefer in the post-match press conference, entering the room while most journalists were still in the press box to watch the players’ lap of honour.
The press officer with him immediately asked if there were any questions, and after none were forthcoming in the six seconds or so before she then said “No?”, Mourinho promptly added “good – bye guys” and left.
It was a peculiar end to a game when United’s young players deserved praise.
Joel Pereira, Scott McTominay and Demetri Mitchell all produced solid displays on their full debut, while Harrop marked his first start with a goal to treasure.
“I’ve dreamed about it so many times, so for it to come true today I’m delighted,” Harrop said. “Over the moon.”
Mourinho also gave Angel Gomes his debut as a late replacement for captain Wayne Rooney, becoming the first player born in 2000 to feature in a Premier League match – and the youngest to have represented United in the competition.
“Obviously, it’s a dream come true,” he told MUTV. “I’ve been here since the age of six, working my way up, and it’s what everyone dreams about.
“I just want to thank the manager for putting me on the bench and playing me today, and all the staff back at the club and everyone who has helped me. I’m from Manchester, Salford and it’s literally down the road. It’s just unbelievable.”
As for Palace, defeat could not take the gloss off their successful battle to beat the drop under Sam Allardyce.
“We finish this season with a loss,” the Eagles boss said.
“But overall it has been a great success since the turn of the year and a big achievement by all the players, all the backroom staff, and the owners, to get to where we are – to get safe without having to come to Man United for any points.”