Jose Mourinho's youth policy in focus but United fans should back his calls

When Jose Mourinho was appointed Manchester United manager, he was very keen to stress the traditions of the club were safe in his hands. He attended a news conference with a list of 49 players he had given debuts to in the 15 years he'd been a manager.

Three years ago, when United were seeking a replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson, lots of fans were wary about Mourinho getting the job. While it is factually correct that he has given lots of young players their debut, that isn't necessarily the same thing as giving youth a chance. He might have played academy graduates for the odd minute or two but in terms of relying them, like Sir Matt Busby and Ferguson had done before him, Mourinho doesn't have a stellar record.

This time around, following the dismal David Moyes and Louis van Gaal years, most supporters couldn't care less about Mourinho's previous record with youth. Either he would have to change at United, or he wouldn't, but with just one FA Cup to show for the last three seasons, promoting academy players wasn't the No.1 priority for a lot of fans.

However, for all of Van Gaal's failings, he thrived when it came incorporating homegrown players, giving debuts to 14 youngsters during his tenure. How much success they had varied and how much credit Van Gaal deserves is questionable, although it is important to note he claimed at the start of 2015-16 that it was a deliberate move to have a small squad so youth players would get a chance in the first team.

Marcus Rashford, who lived the dream in the final months of the season, was the obvious success story, but there were others too. Jesse Lingard's form was inconsistent but he did score a wonder goal to seal the FA Cup for the 10 men of United at Wembley. Timothy Fosu-Mensah only played in 10 games but looked like he had been in the team for years.

Another defender to thrive last season was Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who made a seamless transition from the U-21s to the first team, with a spot vacated at left-back by the injured Luke Shaw. The teenager hardly put a foot wrong and in comparison to the more experienced options of Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian, he looked the most competent challenger to Shaw's place once he returned from injury.

Andreas Pereira was oddly overlooked by Van Gaal, after he scored a brilliant free kick on his full debut, but his creative flair could arguably be blamed for this. United's former manager wasn't a fan of risk takers, too worried they would lose possession, so Pereira possibly lost Van Gaal's trust for this reason.

While there were other players who looked like good prospects and who may have futures at United, these four stood out as the ones we should expect to see more of in the 2016-17 season. However, reports emerged on Thursday that Mourinho had told the latter three they were free to find new clubs this summer, either on a permanent basis or on loan.

The reaction from supporters on social media was a mixture of shock and disbelief. Mourinho has been handed top quality youth players on a plate, all of whom appear to be on the cusp of greatness, yet instead of letting them prove themselves at United and fight for their place in the team, he is apparently planning on shipping them out.

If the process of loaning out was a successful one, which really aided the development of young players, then maybe there would be less frustration from the fans. But Mourinho should know as well as anyone, as the former manager of a club who loans dozens of players out every season but never establish their academy graduates in the first team at Chelsea, it isn't necessarily the best way to take a player to the next step.

In United's past, Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans benefited from their time at Sunderland, while Lingard and Tom Cleverley arguably improved as a result of their many loans, but that's probably it since David Beckham went to Preston in the 1994-95 season.

Would anyone outside of United know Rashford's name if he had been sent out on loan last season? There would have been no goals against Arsenal, Manchester City or West Ham, and certainly no call up to the England squad.

While Rashford will obviously be kept around, it's worth noting he will probably spend most of next season as backup or out of position, with 34-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic occupying his place in the starting lineup.

Supporters have to trust the manager and presume he has a very sensible plan and clear line of thinking in making this decision, but that won't be enough to console the fans if Fosu-Mensah, Borthwick-Jackson and Pereira spend next season away from Old Trafford.