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Can the young Devils ‘Steamroller’ Partizan and end Manchester United’s 11-match winless run on the road?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not been shy in promoting the Red Devils’ academy products since taking charge and will no doubt turn to them once again as they travel to Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League, exclusively live on BT Sport.

As an alumnus of the ‘Class of '92’ and now Manchester United's head of first team development, Nicky Butt is well placed to talk about the club’s academy.

Despite recent struggles, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been praised for continuing the club’s proud heritage of promoting youth.

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Famously, the Red Devils have named a home-grown player in every matchday squad since October 1937 and Butt admits it’s just “part of the culture”.

The Norwegian certainly understands that having played for the club for 11 years before going on to manage the reserve team and now of course taking on the top job.

Solskjaer has named 12 academy graduates in matchday squads already this season and has relied heavily on his young fledglings in the Europa League so far.

But as the young guns prepare for Thursday night’s trip to Partizan Belgrade (nicknamed the Steamroller), live on BT Sport 2 from 5.30pm, Butt has called for fans to be patient.

“We’re all excited about these young boys and there’s probably another four or five in the background that are slowly going to come up behind them,” said the 44-year-old.

“Hopefully more behind that and more behind that, but they’re only babies and young at the minute.

“But, for me, it’s difficult to bring in a lot of players into a team that’s not firing on all cylinders, if you like.

“A lot was made when we came through. It was nothing to do with us as players.

“We were just good players, we were playing with world-class players who were superstars, who were men, who were leaders, who were winning trophies, winning leagues, getting to FA Cup finals every single year.

“We went into a team like that, so you’ve got to be careful and I am not talking for Ole because he knows exactly what I am talking about, he went through it himself here.

“You have to be careful when you put these players in because if they get too much expectation on their shoulders at an early age, a few bad games can see them fall by the wayside.”

There certainly has been plenty of pressure thrust onto their young shoulders already, with United fielding their youngest side for a European game since December 2012 on matchday one against Astana.

Mason Greenwood, who joined the club as a six-year-old, became the club’s youngest scorer in Europe when he netted the match-winner at Old Trafford that night.

And the forward is just one of four teenagers to be handed their first starts since Solskjaer took over in December 2018, with Brandon Williams the latest having lined up against AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League.

Greenwood and Williams, both of whom have recently penned new long-term contracts, are in line to feature once again on Thursday as United to continue to juggle the demands of the Premier League and playing in Europe.

Neither were involved in Monday’s U23 win against Swansea, with James Garner, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes also absent and expected to travel to Serbia.

The Red Devils also go in search of their first win on the road in 11 games, having not tasted victory away from the Theatre of Dreams since March on a glorious night in Paris.

If Butt is already worried that their home-grown talent is under pressure, they certainly don’t need the added responsibility of ending that run weighing on them.

And considering Partizan are unbeaten in 11 home games in European competition (W8 D3), it looks a tall order.

The Red Devils do boast a strong recent record in the Europa League however, they go into this one on a 13-match unbeaten run having kept clean sheets in nine of those games.

It’s a different story at the other end of the pitch however, and one the fans have become accustomed to already this season, because if they fail to score on Thursday it will be their third European away blank in succession – their worst run since failing to find the net in five European away matches that ended in November 2005.

The academy graduates could be boosted by the returning Anthony Martial, who made his comeback from injury in the 1-1 draw with rivals Liverpool on Sunday.

His attacking prowess would certainly be welcomed, not least by Marcus Rashford, but regardless Solskjaer will still rely heavily on Greenwood and co for the remainder of the campaign.

With all the doom and gloom surrounding United, who have made their worst start to a league campaign in 33 years, the young Devils are again charged with offering some European respite.

Butt may well be right that the fans, and indeed the club, need to be patient with the latest crop of talented youngsters emerging but at Manchester United the need to win is always immediate and what might come to be dubbed the ‘Class of ‘19’ need to deliver.

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