Dubai: Former Manchester United defender Denis Irwin has backed Jose Mourinho to utilise and improve the club’s youngsters if he takes over from Louis Van Gaal at the end of the season.
The breakthrough of young players such as Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Timothy Fosu-Mensah have been some of the few positives in a disappointing season for the Red Devils, who are currently a point off fourth position with seven games remaining.
With incumbent coach Van Gaal under pressure, former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has been widely reported to be set to replace the Dutchman in the summer.
But given the Portuguese’s track record with youth – with a perceived leaning toward more experienced players – there have been fears over how Mourinho might supress the emergence of talent at Old Trafford.
However, Irwin, 50, who won 19 honours in 368 appearances for United between 1990 and 2002, said he trusted that Mourinho would respect the club’s long held philosophy of giving youth a chance.
That notion dates back to the Busby Babes under Sir Matt Busby in the 1950s and reoccurred under Sir Alex Ferguson with the Class of ’92 in the early 1990s. Both eras were the most successful in the club’s history.
“If Mourinho does come in, he will appreciate what the club is all about and he’ll have to understand the Manchester United philosophy of youngsters coming through,” said Irwin during ‘An Audience With’ at the West Beach Bar and Bistro at the Movenpick Hotel in Jumeirah Beach Residence on Monday.
“He will have to understand that if he does become manager at some point and I’m sure he will make these youngsters better players.”
The Irishman, who also played 56 times for his country between 1990 and 1999, featuring in the 1994 World Cup, went onto add that he always believed Mourinho was the right match for United.
“When Sir Alex left [at the end of the 2013 season] I always thought Mourinho was a cert, I thought he’d be a shoe-in because it needed someone with big shoulders to handle the job. I don’t think David Moyes was the right man.
“They got Louis Van Gaal and his record is unbelievable, his resume is great but you’ve got to say I bet he’s found it harder than what he thought. His style of play is completely different to what we’ve been used to, he likes a possession game and we’ve found it a real struggle this year.
“We were first in the table at the beginning of the year due to our defence but when we’ve had to go forward to win a game – like Wolfsburg in the Champions League or Liverpool in the Europa Cup – we’ve looked a lot better going forward but worse defensively.
“We are much more comfortable as we saw against Everton on Sunday, holding the game up defensively – we’ve only conceded seven at home this season – because we have the players to do that. It’s not the United of old. It’s changed.
“I couldn’t tell you if Van Gaal will go but if like Moyes we don’t finish in the top four, he knows it’s a results industry and he’ll be under pressure if we don’t make top four.”