The sale of Danny Welbeck has prompted a lot of discussion over the past few weeks in regards to Manchester United and their tradition of bringing through young players.

Mike Phelan claimed “they have probably lost the way of Manchester United a little bit”, as if Welbeck was the first former academy player to be sold, and that “the thread has been broken”.

It’s probably worth noting that United have made around £140m from selling youth team products over the past couple of decades. Welbeck is continuing the tradition of being a top division standard player produced by the academy, but who wasn’t deemed good enough for United by the manager.

In response to Phelan’s claims, there have been articles reminding the world that United still have a strong presence of former academy players in the squad, with the club’s former assistant manager possibly being guilty of overreacting.

In the four games played this season, there have been 18 appearances made by United’s eight youth products, although only five of them still remain at the club.

Phelan’s comments have also prompted people to argue that United aren’t even that bothered about youth anyway and that the Class of 92 was just a freak occurrence that the club hasn’t been able to replicate. That, in part, is true. It is unlikely that any club at the top of the table will ever bring through as many young players as United did in the 1990’s. But the likelihood that there will never be a Class of 92 again doesn’t negate the fact that United have endeavoured to give youngsters a go.

Jason Burt of The Telegraph claimed that “it is a myth that United have always had a team overbrimming with local players and youth team products.”

Really?

The 1998-98 season was a culmination of all the hard work and time that United invested in the young players at the club. No other English team in the history of the game has won the Treble, and United achieved it with a squad full of former academy players.

Looking at league games alone, the players United produced made a total of 200 appearances that season, which works out at an average of 5.26 academy players per league game.

But was this season a one off? Once the class of 92 was disbanded, with players being sold or becoming too old to play every week, did United stop bringing through their own players?

Below is a break down of all the title winning seasons since 1998-99 looking solely at Premier League games. With cup competitions regularly used by Sir Alex Ferguson to test out youngsters, it only seemed fair to focus on league games alone.

2014-15
Appearances: 18
Average former academy players per game: 4.5
Total former academy players used: 8
Jonny Evans, Adnan Januzaj, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher, Jesse Lingard, Michael Keane, Tyler Blackett.

2012-13:
Appearances: 113
Average former academy players per game: 2.97
Total former academy players used: 6
Jonny Evans, Ryan Giggs, Danny Welbeck, Paul Scholes, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher.

2010-11
Appearances: 128
Average former academy players per game: 3.37
Total former academy players used: 8
Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, John O’Shea, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher, Darron Gibson.

2008-09
Appearances: 156
Average former academy players per game: 4.11
Total former academy players used: 12
Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Danny Welbeck, John O’Shea, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher, Darron Gibson, Lee Martin, Fraizer Campbell, Richard Eckersley.

2007-08
Appearances: 152
Average former academy players per game: 4
Total former academy players used: 9
Wes Brown, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gerard Pique, John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher, Danny Simpson, Chris Eagles, Fraizer Campbell.

2006-07
Appearances: 180
Average former academy players per game: 4.74
Total former academy players used: 9
Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, John O’Shea, Kieran Richardson, Darren Fletcher, Chris Eagles, Kieran Lee.

2002-03
Appearances: 197
Average former academy players per game: 5.18
Total former academy players used: 12
Gary Neville, Phil Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Luke Chadwick, Michael Stewart, Paul Scholes, Wes Brown, Danny Pugh, Lee Roche, Kieran Richardson.

2000-01
Appearances: 243
Average former academy players per game: 6.39
Total former academy players used: 12
Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Ronnie Wallwork, Wes Brown, Michael Stewart, Paul Rachubka, David Healy, Luke Chadwick.

1999-00
Appearances: 190
Average former academy players per game: 5
Total former academy players used: 12
Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, John Curtis, Paul Scholes, Michael Clegg, Danny Higginbotham, Ronnie Wallwork, Nick Culkin, Mark Wilson.

1998-99
Appearances: 200
Average former academy players per game: 5.26
Total former academy players used: 8
Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, John Curtis, Paul Scholes, Wes Brown.

Youth correction

youth2

United have brought in plenty of players over the years too, of course. Whilst the likes of Giggs, Beckham and Scholes were amongst the best players at the club when they were at their peak, United haven’t managed to bring through players of a similar quality since, and it has been the imported players in the limelight.

However, it is a squad game, and the fact that United have consistently had former youth team players in the first team alongside those bought in, suggests it’s silly to doubt the club’s commitment to youth. When you then compare United’s record to other clubs at the top of the table, the statement appears even more foolish.

You have to go back to before 1937 to find a game when United didn’t include a former academy player in the squad which is, of course, a record no other club comes close to rivalling.




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