LONDON • The talk before Manchester United's League Cup third round match against Ipswich Town was about the youngsters Louis van Gaal had opted to omit. After their 3-0 win over the second-tier side, the discussion centred on those emerging talents he had turned to.
James Wilson and Jesse Lingard could have been forgiven for feeling put out by van Gaal's decision to overlook them for the visit of a severely-weakened Ipswich. But the night belonged to Andreas Pereira and another decisive intervention from United's man of the moment, Anthony Martial.
Pereira marked his first start with an enterprising midfield display that culminated in a sublime second-half free kick to give United a 2-0 lead after Wayne Rooney had opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with his first domestic goal since April.
Martial put a little gloss on the scoreline when he came off the substitutes' bench to score in stoppage time with another composed finish. It was his fourth goal in as many games since his move from Monaco in a deal worth £58.8 million (S$127.7 million) .
It has taken the France striker just 12 days to match Radamel Falcao's tally for the entirety of last season. But van Gaal gave assurances that the world's most expensive teenager will not get carried away by his early impact.
RESIGNED TO DEFEAT
United deserved to win... I could have put any team out against that team and probably still would have been beaten.
MICK McCARTHY Ipswich manager defending his team selection
"He is a player who is very modest," the Dutchman said. "He knows he can score because of his fellow players."
Van Gaal added that the France striker was aided by the fact that United were leading - just like they were when he scored in his debut against Liverpool.
"We were winning the game and gaps are existing," he said. "He did it against Liverpool and now again."
Like Martial, Pereira is 19 and also extremely gifted. The Brazil Under-20 midfielder's last experience of the League Cup was one to forget when he appeared as a substitute in the chastening 4-0 defeat by Milton Keynes Dons last season.
Only two players who started that game are still at the club.
Pereira might have since departed, too. Paris Saint-Germain were eager to sign him but, after fears that he could follow the lead of Paul Pogba and leave, the teen signed a new three-year contract in May.
It was easy to see on Wednesday why United were so determined to keep him. He had started in lively fashion, hitting a post and twice cutting inside to rain in shots. And that self-confidence was evident when he asked Juan Mata to step aside so he could take the free-kick that he subsequently bent into the corner.
"I asked Juan for the ball and he gave it to me because we have been practising," Pereira said. "It is like a dream come true."
Whereas van Gaal had taken no chances with his £207 million line-up after the MK Dons debacle, Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy made 11 changes to the team that drew 1-1 against Birmingham City last Friday.
United will face another Championship side in the fourth round in the form of Middlesbrough.
"United deserved to win, but I am delighted with my players," said McCarthy, whose starting XI comprised of 10 free signings and a player who cost just £8,500. "I could have put any team out against that team and probably still would have been beaten." THE TIMES, LONDON