Timothy Fosu-Mensah
Timothy Fosu-Mensah made his first start for Manchester United during their 1-0 win over WatfordGetty

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has heaped praise on Timothy Fosu-Mensah following his first start for the Red Devils during their 1-0 win over Watford on Wednesday (2 March). The Netherlands U19 international made his first-team debut during the Red Devils' 3-2 win over Arsenal when he came on as a substitute for injured Marcos Rojo.

Fosu-Mensah, who can play in any position in the back four, made his first start in central defence alongside compatriot Daley Blind. The Dutch manager opted to start the youngster in place of Michael Carrick, who was given a rest following his involvement in back-to-back games in the Europa League and Premier League. The manager believes it was the versatile defender's pace that helped him keep the Hornets forwards quiet during the game.

"Timothy has saved us three times, I think, because of his speed," Van Gaal said, as quoted by United's official site.

"So I was very pleased that he was on the pitch. He wanted to be changed early in the second half [because he picked up a knock] but I let him stay on because he always closed the door for us."

Van Gaal has had to dip into the youth team a number of times since his arrival at Old Trafford and has thus far handed out debuts to 14 academy players. This season has seen him bring in seven players from the youth setup with Marcus Rashford, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, James Weir, Donald Love and Joe Riley among others getting their opportunities with the first-team. The main reason for the influx of young players has been the injury crisis that has crippled the club in recent months.

The former Bayern Munich manager has, however, credited the young players for bringing in a lot of spirit to the team, as their introduction has seen an upturn in form for the club with the Red Devils winning four consecutive matches to bring them back in contention in the Premier League, Europa League and FA Cup.

"I think the youngsters have given us a lot of spirit and now, when you see the dressing room full of joy with all the players laughing, it's beautiful to see," the Dutchman added.