Louis van Gaal says Marcus Rashford has blossomed at Manchester United after he had the “guts” to put the teenage striker in the Old Trafford first team.
Rashford, 18, has scored seven goals in 13 games since being given a senior debut against Midtjylland in the Europa League in February.
That appearance, in which Rashford scored twice, came following an injury to Anthony Martial in the warm-up and the former youth-team player has started every United game since.
Van Gaal paid tribute Thursday to coaches Paul McGuiness, who left United in February, and Warren Joyce for their role in the development of the England Under-21 international.
But the Dutchman also said his decision to promote Rashford was vital, in keeping with his record of blooding young players throughout his coaching career.
“You always need guts to put youngsters in the squad and also in the line-up,” van Gaal told a news conference.
“Of course the academy and all the academy coaches have credit for these players, also the scouts who discovered these boys.
“I am a little part of it. But that part is very important because you need the guts to do that (pick them for the first team).”
The United manager added: “I have had that at all my clubs because I give youngsters the chance to do that
“My first club was AZ Alkmaar. I was trainer-coach of the second team and then I played with five players out of my second team when I took over as first-team coach.
“I went to Ajax and Patrick Kluivert, at 18-years-old, made the same performance as Marcus Rashford.
“I can give a lot of examples of that. It’s not new. At Bayern Munich it was (Thomas) Muller. At Barcelona, Xavi was 18-years-old and Iniesta 17. It’s not strange. Age is not the issue, quality is the big issue.”
Rashford is again set to lead United’s attack against Everton in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday.
United are looking to win the trophy for the first time since 2004, with van Gaal still targeting fourth place in the Premier League following Wednesday’s victory over Crystal Palace — a fourth win in five league games — as he tries to hold onto his job.
Van Gaal, who has come under fire for the quality of United’s football this season, said: “We are further than last year. We were in the quarter-finals and now we are in the semi-finals (of the FA Cup) and that means we are better than last year.
“It’s not for me to judge that (whether United have progressed). I have said previously, I do my utmost best. We are still in the race for fourth position in the Premier League and that was our aim.”