Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hinted at the leadership group he is assembling at Manchester United for the new season.
United began their competitive campaign with a buoyant 4-0 dismantling of Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday with a starting XI that had an average age of 24.
Captain David de Gea, 28, was the oldest starter and Jesse Lingard, 26, was the second-oldest as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial struck before 21-year-old debutant Daniel James netted off the bench.
Ahead of the fixture, Solskjaer alluded to a leadership group behind club captain Ashley Young and suggested ‘you might get a clue on Sunday’. Young, 34, was an unused substitute but was asked to get ready to come on, seemingly to replace the struggling Luke Shaw.
Solskjaer named Young and his other 30-something teammates as figureheads to guide a young squad.
“David’s part of the team and he’s contributed on and off the ball today,” Solskjaer said. “We’re going to improve. We’re nowhere near what we can be or that we have to be, because we have to play better than this to get results against loads of teams.
“Then again we’ve got some experienced boys helping them,: Ashley, Nemanja [Matic] and Juan [Mata] are behind here that’s guiding these boys.
“We always have to improve and you have to look beyond the results, I would have said – had we had a different result – this is a work in progress.
“And the boys have been excellent since July 1, they have been excellent since before July 1, because they have been fit enough to implement what we wanted to, and we know it is just the start.
“There are relationships to be worked on, the more we understand each other, the more we get to play with each other and show we’re a team that’s going to improve.”
Mata, 31, came on in the dying embers but Matic, also 31, stayed on the bench as Solskjaer afforded the 17-year-old Mason Greenwood more competitive playing time.