In Manchester United's final match of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, they left both Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood out of the action in anticipation of the Europa League final against Villarreal on Wednesday.
The pair have been the two shining examples of the club's main principle — bringing through the youth. Their absence, though, was replaced by two first-team debuts for Hannibal Mejbri and Will Fish as the Reds ended the season with a 2-1 win at Wolves.
Amazing stat helps show the club's on the right track
With their debuts, came an interesting, yet unsurprising statistic after the game — Since 1939, exactly 50% of the players who took to the field for United have come through the club's academy. Sensational.
While the club seemed to have taken strides away from their folklore in recent years, with the academy seeing dark days and being in the shadow of the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea in regards to academy football, it has taken a turn back to normality under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's guidance.
The Norweigan manager has given debuts to 16 academy players since taking over at the helm, but the club has also improved the quality of the youth teams.
The Under-23s were one of the most exciting teams to watch in the PL2 this season, finishing eighth, yet scoring the second-most in the division with 58. Meanwhile, Neil Ryan's Under-18s side finished second in their campaign, just a point behind eventual victors, Manchester City.
There is now a plethora of talent to talk about in both of these teams and a clear route through to the first team. Covid bubbles in training has not stopped Solskjaer from bringing through many talents to train with the squad. This isn't to mention the likes of Ethan Laird and James Garner, who have experienced successful loan spells this campaign with MK Dons and Nottingham Forest respectively.
It is clear that, as a club, United are back in the right direction in relation to one of the most important aspects of their tradition.
Seven academy players end the match
As the match at The Molineux Stadium concluded, The Red Devils ended the match with seven academy players — Dean Henderson, Will Fish, Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams, Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbri and Anthony Elanga.
It was not only the fact that United included so many of their products, but also that one of them opened the scoring in the match. Elanga opened his United account with a bullet header in the 13th minute of the game after a peach of a cross from Daniel James.
After the game, the goalscorer was ecstatic about his debut, the victory and his goal; all of which showed why it is so important to bring through the youth at this club.
"My debut's still not sunk in yet," The teenager told MUTV, with a smirk on his face.
“The fact I've scored today, that's still not sunk in yet either! It's just an amazing feeling, starting in the Premier League for the club that I've supported since I was young. I'm just so happy.”
Elanga's elation was also shown at the final whistle, where the teenager dropped to his knees in celebration after Mike Dean stopped the affair. Manchester United had already secured second place in the table before the game had begun, but this meant more for the Swedish winger.
His teammates in the Under-23s, Will Fish and Hannibal Mejbri also made their mark on the first-team pitch with Manchester United, and the latter impressed in the limited game-time he was offered.
While it wasn't his debut, 17-year-old Shola Shoretire's substitute appearance, alongside Hannibal, was his third for the club this season. His development throughout the season has been outstanding, moving into the Under-23s side as a 16-year-old at the start of the season.
Will Fish only managed to secure a few minutes on the field, but he helped to secure the victory for the Reds, who had their backs against the wall in the closing stages of the game.
It's always great when you can secure your position in the table before the last day because then you will usually see the youngsters involved. Yet, these players do not seem like they will be happy with just one appearance.
All of the academy players involved in the match helped show the true tradition at Manchester United, but the trio of Hannibal, Elanga and Shoretire are three of the most exciting talents in the academy and it would be no surprise to see them involved in Solskjaer's plans in the coming years.