Manchester United Academy assistant-coach Colin Little is rightly proud of the progress Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood were making before the pause in football last month.
The former Crewe Alexandra forward has worked closely with both strikers, particularly when they were in the Under-18s, helping them to develop the knack of putting the ball in the back of the net.
Rashford is our leading scorer with 19 goals, while Greenwood, despite only being 18, has 11 to his name in all competitions. There have also been encouraging signs in the way the two have combined, such as when Marcus set up Mason’s maiden Premier League strike, at Sheffield United, and Rashford’s finish to a perfect through ball by the teenager in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg with Manchester City.
With a bit of luck, it is easy to see why the pair could be shining and working together for the Reds for many seasons to come and it is a fact not lost on Little.
“I honestly think you can’t look at any team and think there are any two better homegrown strikers in the country,” he told us recently.
“Tammy Abraham and Harry Kane are really good strikers but we’ve got two on our books right now.
“Without blowing our own trumpet, that’s just incredible isn’t it? Both are still young, both are Manchester United kids from an early age. It’s why, but for anything else, if they were the two people who come out of this Academy, you would be like ‘wow’. I mean what are forwards worth nowadays? People who score goals – at that age?
“You’re looking at it, thinking what an incredible asset to have, and you’ve got the other ones like Brandon Williams and James Garner, and others, behind them. It’s a testament to everybody and, let’s be honest with you, from all the way down with Eamon Mulvey’s group, all the way through, those players have gone through every single age group. From Tony Whelan, and everybody is where they are now. I mean they could be in our first team for nearly 20 years. It can be a 20-year career from 18 to 38.”
There is a special satisfaction around the Aon Training Complex when two homegrown lads combine on the big stage and gel with the sort of understanding that has been fostered over countless sessions and drills.
For Little, seeing the hard work pay off is extremely rewarding and he is always keen to see the youngsters constantly developing their game, while also now learning from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the senior coaching team.
“If you put on a coaching session for Marcus or Mason, and they made the run, you want the ball arriving at exactly the right time,” he explained.
“We have this little saying ‘get it in the right place’. Mason’s pass to Marcus against City was perfect. Straight after the game, I texted him to say: ‘Get it to the right place!’
“All of a sudden, it starts to become a habit for the forwards to find each other and give themselves easy passes. If someone is in a better position, there’s a pass for you. Share it out.”