Jose Mourinho could field one of the youngest back-fives in Premier League history on Sunday as he protects his key men for Wednesday’s Europa League final against Ajax.
Goalkeeper Joel Pereira and left-back Demetri Mitchell, both 20, are in line for their Premier League debuts against Crystal Palace on Sunday, alongside a pair of 19-year-olds Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe. Eric Bailly, 23, who is suspended for United’s season-defining match in Stockholm, will also start at Old Trafford.
Their average age is only marginally older than Steve McClaren’s Middlesbrough line-up against Fulham in 2006, which featured three 19-year-olds and two players aged 21.
Jose Mourinho could name of the Premier League’s youngest back-fives against Crystal Palace
Joel Pereira (L) and left-back Demetri Mitchell, both 20, are in line for Premier League debuts
Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe are also set to start in the clash with Crystal Palace
Due to the youthful nature of his squad and the potential for pre-match nerves, Mourinho has altered United’s normal routine. Instead of staying at the Lowry Hotel, as they usually do for the night before home games, players have been encouraged to stay with their families.
Midfielder Scott McTominay, 20, has a chance of his first United start while 21-year-old Josh Harrop, Matthew Willock, 20, Zachary Dearnley, 18, and Angel Gomes, 16, hope to make their debuts at some stage.
Mourinho has spent the week assessing which youngsters are ready to take the plunge as he prepares to rest all of his starters for the final except Paul Pogba, who has missed the last two games following the death of his father.
Juan Mata and Anthony Martial may be included to add some first-team knowhow, with Ashley Young also in contention after injury. But the starting line-up is expected to be the youngest in the Premier League this season. Tottenham’s side who faced Stoke in September was the youngest with an average age of 25 years, 47 days.
Mourinho has said Wayne Rooney is an injury doubt that may prevent him from saying what may be his farewell to Old Trafford, while Marouane Fellaini is fighting to recover from a hamstring problem to face Ajax.
Twenty-year-old midfielder Scott McTominay could make his first United start on Sunday
Exciting attacking midfielder Angel Gomes, 16, will be hoping to make his senior debut
The likes of Juan Mata and Anthony Martial could be included to add first-team know-how