Today marks the 80th anniversary of Manchester United having an academy graduate in every single match day squad. That means for an incredible 3,883 consecutive matches United have involved a youth team player in the first team, a record dating back to October 1937.
For context, the club with next longest run is Everton with over 1,000 consecutive games over a period of 21 years. For further comparison, there were six teams on the last weekend of August this season who didn’t have a single youth team graduate in their squad (Manchester City, Stoke, Swansea, Burnley, Bournemouth and Watford). City, who some argue have overtaken United in youth production, didn’t have any academy players in the squad for this weekend’s win over West Brom. In other words, United 3883 – City 0.
United is a club that rival fans have long accused of “buying success”. You can’t get away from the fact that United generate more money than any club in the country and, in some seasons, the world, so they are therefore likely to spend that money on improving the squad. Yet there still needs to be recognition for the fact the club has always made room for its own players.
Unlike many teams in the league, United are in a position to buy all their first team squad players, yet instead of doing that, they always include academy graduates. As happy as United fans can feel over all the trophies we’ve won over the past few decades, the pride in seeing our youth succeed ranks highly among the best things of supporting this club.
United can boast an impressive record of including our youngsters in our first team, but we are also providing quality players for other English teams too, and therefore the national team.
Today is a day for the recognition we deserve. I’ve asked several United fans to sum up some of our academy graduates in their own words.
Arthur Albiston – @R_o_M
Albiston joined United when he was a trainee at 14-years-old and the left-back signed on as a professional two years later.
He won his first medal in the 1977 FA Cup final after United’s victory denied Liverpool the treble. He had been called in to replace an injured Stewart Houston ahead of the day at Wembley and after the game offered his medal up to the man he replaced, although this gesture was turned down. This wasn’t the first time he helped break the scousers’ hearts either, scoring an 89th winner against them at Anfield in 1981.
Albiston went on to win a further two more FA Cups and made 485 appearances for the club, which puts him 11th in the all-time appearance rankings, ahead of the likes of George Best, Mark Hughes, Bryan Robson and Roy Keane.
He returned to the club in 2000 to work as a youth coach for four years and now commentates on our academy games for MUTV.
Phil Bardsley – @UtdCantona
One fantastic aspect of United’s youth system is that it sets up young local lads to have successful professional careers, even if they don’t make it at United.
Salford’s own Phil Bardsley is now at his fifth Premiership club, with well over 200 top flight starts, multiple national team caps and a cup final appearance to his name. In an era favouring more marauding, attacking full backs, Phil has shown adaptability and altered his game accordingly. He’s an aggressive, dependable full back that doesn’t suffer fools, with a bit of a bad boy reputation on and off the pitch.
David Beckham – @AdamMcKola
As well known for his life off the pitch as he was on it, people forget just how good he actually was.
Goals, assists, set pieces, a fantastic engine, leader, a United fan, great football boots and the haircuts – I spent my school years trying to copy all of those things and failing miserably to pull them off!
Robbed of the Ballon d’Or in 1999 and left way too early but will always be a United legend in the eyes of many.
George Best – @BarneyRedNews
George Best. Icon. Legend. A man who didn’t just shape an era but helped make it. I honestly don’t think he could have played for another football club as it was just meant to be.
Sometimes it is suggested what if he had done more; but think of what we were blessed with.
I look at the all too few clips of George was Best and know that on better pitches he would have done it in any era.
The guile, the skill. The bloody touch. That bloody touch. No wonder we – the Dad, the son, the grandfather – fell in love with him.
He represented our awe and wonder and he needed Sir Matt but Busby needed a him like Fergie did an Eric.
We will always talk about George Best because he lived a dream we all have as kids.
Clayton Blackmore – @_Rob_B
My first-ever crush at school fancied Clayton Blackmore, and as a young teen with a healthy obsession for Manchester United, this fact fascinated me. She would talk to me about his dashing looks, and his beautiful hair, and I wondered if I too could look like Clayton. I stuck a Panini sticker of Blackmore on my clock radio next to my bed, and I aspired to be the Welshman, before The Smiths took over my life and made me grow a magnificent quiff with sculptured sideburns. 14-year-old me never did get to kiss her, she was way out of my league, but Blackmore will always have a place in my heart next to the beautiful girl from Bromley.
I found that clock radio in my mum’s loft not long ago. Clayton was still attached. I’m still in touch with the girl, and recently told her she was my first crush. She had no clue. We laughed our heads off about it, and reminisced about a Welsh lad with a decent free-kick in him. I used to give her posters of Blackmore to impress her. Clayton nearly got me the girl of my young dreams.
Blackmore joined United when he was 14 and made 245 appearances for the first team (85th). He won one league title, one FA Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and one UEFA Super Cup.
Jackie Blanchflower – @Tommy_CTS
The name Blanchflower carries serious weight in the history of British football. Danny captained Spurs to a league and cup double long before Fergie made such feats routine. Supremely talented younger brother Jackie might well have achieved comparable success had tragedy not cruelly intervened.
A prodigious provider and scorer of goals; the Irishman played a major role in the 1957 title win before switching to centre half to accommodate a certain Robert Charlton in attack. Devastating injuries suffered in the Munich air-crash put paid to a bright football future; leaving the all too familiar lament of what might have been.
Blanchflower joined United when he was 16 and won two league titles with the club.
Wes Brown – @RFFH
He’s big he’s bad he’s Wesley Brown… We all know the rest as, despite leaving Old Trafford over five years ago, the two-time Jimmy Murphy player of the year is as revered today as he was in his orange-haired heyday.
In many ways Wes – he’s a player whose first name always seems apt – could look back at his time at United with a touch of regret. That may sound bonkers for a player who made over 350 appearances at either right back or centre back for the Reds in a 14-year spell at the club, winning “the lot” in the process, but were it not for a series of injuries there’s little doubt he’d have made a lot more as almost three full seasons were written off due to being on the treatment table.
The two greatest seasons in the club’s recent history, almost book end Wes’s time at United, in 1999 he truly announced himself to the fans with a series of displays that belied his teenage years, including an impressive performance in the Nou Camp during the group stages of the Champions League.
If Wes was a bit-part player in 1999, he was essential in 2008 as not only did he set up Ronaldo’s goal in the Champions League final – he also managed over 50 games in all competitions in what was a magnificent season for both the club and the defender who made left wingers piss their pants in fear.
One of my favourite memories of Wes was the FA Cup final in 2007, United may have lost, but Arjen Robben coming on as sub only to be sent flying by Longsight’s finest, before eventually being subbed a broken man just over an hour later, summed up why we all still love the hardest man in all the town.
Nicky Butt – @AlexShawESPN
Nicky Butt is a cornerstone of this scarcely believable record United are celebrating today. From the streets of Roger Byrne’s Gorton, the tough-tackling Class of 92 graduate is exactly why United have been so ludicrously successful down the years: the personification of a player mixing talent with tenacity.
Squads win titles, not first XIs, and United trusted Butt throughout his 12-year Old Trafford career, which brought 387 appearances, 26 goals, six league titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League. Pele might have fraudulently claimed he scored more than 1200 goals in his career but he knew a player when he saw one, rightfully talking up Butt at the World Cup in 2002.
Three years earlier and with Roy Keane suspended for the Champions League final in 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson turned to Butt for the biggest game in United’s history. The midfielder responded like he always did, putting in a fearless, dependable display against Bayern Munich in the Camp Nou. Much like Denis Irwin at the back, Butt was United’s Mr. Reliable when called upon in the middle.
The man for the big occasion, Butt also has a goal against Liverpool to his name as well as a winner against Leeds. Aside from his talent, his appreciation of the club’s history and the way he extols its values marks him as a true Manchester United great.
It is therefore rather fitting this club legend is now head of the academy, barking out orders to, hopefully, the next Nicky Butt. United need one.
Roger Byrne – @RichardCann76
Born in Gorton on 8 February 1929, Roger Byrne played 280 times for United and was a key member of the Busby Babes, captaining the side from the 1955-56 season onwards before tragically losing his life in the Munich air disaster at the age of 28.
Primarily a left back, Byrne compensated for technical deficiencies with versatility, work-rate and a keen footballing brain, winning three league titles and one FA Cup and scoring 20 goals in his seven seasons in the first team. Also capped 33 times by England, he remains one of United’s most revered captains.
Bobby Charlton – @Greg Broadhurst
His record for United is immense. He is a European Cup winner, league winner, and to come back and drive United to glory with Sir Matt Busby, after losing his mates in the Munich tragedy, is a sign of a great man, a football giant.
His goals and appearance records for club and country are the things we will forever respect and remember as United fans. Everyone with a connection to the club felt United showed that same respect by naming a stand after him, a permanent honour to acknowledge all he has given to Manchester United.
I’ve always admired Sir Bobby, both as a United fan, and on a human level. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him as a boy and a man. My brother and myself had the honour of being invited to his soccer school as kids, he had all the time in the world to talk to us, he was a lovely bloke with all us excited kids. I was stars truck. This was the United legend, but he made us all feel at ease.
Some years later, I met Sir Bobby again, thanked him for the soccer school, and he was the same humble bloke I remembered as kid, happy to spend time talking, just a lovely guy. Aside of what he did for United, I’ll always remember his kind nature, how he gave back to football, a legend of our club, a real class act.
Thanks Sir Bobby.
Tom Cleverley – @MuhammadButt
Everyone hoped that Tom Cleverley would be the next David Beckham. Here was this kid who could cross it like nobody’s business. He emerged in 2011-12 but became a squad player proper in 2012-13 where he contributed to United’s title win by creating 19 chances (with two assists) and scoring two goals in 1453 minutes, mostly as a central midfielder.
But the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson hit him hard. He struggled under David Moyes (who didn’t?) and Louis van Gaal got rid of him. Now he’s playing for Watford, definitely not the next Beckham, but at least his own man.
Danny Drinkwater – @JimboOfMancunia
United fans would justified in thinking that Danny Drinkwater can be considered ‘one that got away’ given our notoriously lightweight midfield over the last five years.
He was excellent in Manchester United’s under-18s and reserves and after moving away from the club, was vital to Leicester’s Premier League winning team, alongside N’Golo Kante. He would have provided a great option in those times of a United midfield that was desperately thin on quality. Whether he could have cut it as a first team success is unclear but his Chelsea career will be an indication of that.
Drinkwater only made one First Team squad for United and didn’t come off the bench. In the post-Fergie years he could have either flourished or failed, but it would surely have been better to have him around.
Duncan Edwards – @Doc_Joshi
Duncan Edwards, 177 games, 21 goals for United; 18 caps, 5 goals for England.
Manchester City player Don Revie said of Duncan Edwards joining the England team: “You don’t hear many professionals talk lightly of greatness because it is so rare, but that is what I saw in Duncan Edwards the first time I set eyes on him. He is the kind of player managers dream about.”
At 21 years old, the age he died, Duncan Edwards was already Manchester United and England’s best player. We will never know what he would have achieved had he not so tragically lost his life along with 22 others after that night in Munich but one thing is certain…every single person who speaks about him speaks with an air of awe and wonder.
Sir Bobby Charlton describes Edwards as the “only player to make him feel inferior” and Jimmy Murphy said: “When I used to hear Muhammad Ali proclaim to the world that he was the greatest, I used to smile. You see, the greatest of them all was an English footballer named Duncan Edwards.”
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – @LarsMolsen
Critics in Norway were loud and many when Magnus Eikrem moved to United at only 16. The general view was that Magnus would have been better off waiting before moving, but when I met him in 2016 he told me that the United academy was the best school he could have attended.
He never got an appearance but was unused sub in the League Cup in 2010-2011 against Scunthorpe, Wolverhampton and West Ham. Against Wolves, he was warming up for half an hour with his dad watching from the Old Trafford stands hoping for an appearance that never came.
Magnus currently plays for Malmo and has made 17 appearances for Norway.
Jonny Evans – @LaurieHanna
A rugged, uncompromising centre-back, Jonny Evans was a solid defender who grew up a United supporter and played with his heart on his sleeve.
Evans was unfortunate to begin his Old Trafford career as the Ferdinand-Vidic partnership was at its strongest, meaning he spent formative years as back up.
Although he might not have scaled the dizzy heights of another certain Belfast Boy, he remains a quality Premier League player and deserves recognition as another top-class graduate of the club’s distinguished academy.
Darren Fletcher – @SteveCrab
Darren Fletcher took a while to have a place in the hearts of some Reds.
He’d established himself as the central midfield linchpin of the reserves, but when he got his chance in the first team, Alex Ferguson would play him out of position in the right hand side of midfield.
Expectations of someone playing in this position were high. We’d not long let David Beckham go and for the kid Fletcher stepping up, it was a difficult thing to do.
Alan Smith then suffered an awful injury at Anfield which saw Fletcher get his chance in the centre of midfield, and that’s when we got to know what a real gem of a kid we had on our hands.
Combative, composed and a lad who’d run through walls for the team. We got some great years out of Fletcher; his place rightfully cemented in this unique achievement by United.
Bill Foulkes – @LeFalseNumber12
Bill Foulkes lived and experienced all the defining moments in Manchester United’s history during the Busby era. In a career that spanned 18 seasons the academy graduate was part of the “Babes”, featured in United’s first ever European match, survived the horrific tragedy that was the Munich air disaster and played a decisive role in helping his team lift the European Cup.
He made 688 appearances for United, the fourth most in the club’s history and enjoyed a trophy filled career winning four league titles, an FA Cup and a European Cup.
The defender scored just nine times for United but reserved his most significant strike against the mighty Real Madrid in the second leg of the European Cup semifinal in 1968. The goal ensured safe passage to the European Cup final and a date with history.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah – @Nathan_Quao
Anyone who has seen Timothy Fosu-Mensah play clearly sees that the young player is very willing to put in the work and create success for himself.
He got his nod under Louis Van Gaal and featured in a few matches, most notably in United’s 3-2 win over Arsenal and the 1-0 win over Everton that had Anthony Martial scoring the 1000th goal at Old Trafford.
Of course, chances have become limited under Jose Mourinho so he has been sent to Crystal Palace on loan.
He does have a future at Man United but he needs to accentuate the skills that will make him a candidate for specific roles. By default, he can play across the back line but I get the sense he is more suited for the right back. His energy and industry fits well with the demands of running up and down the flanks.
He needs to work on his delivery though. That is what will make him stand out and get him the chances he deserves. He must work on finding teammates with good crosses of different varieties.
Darron Gibson – @DanyalHKhan
A former Jimmy Murphy Award winner, Gibson made his debut versus Stoke City in 2008, and his Champions League debut 10 days later against Villarreal.
Although the Republic of Ireland international only made 31 appearances for United, he was part of the Premier League winning side of 2010-11 and League Cup teams of 2008-09 and 2009-10.
It’s easy to forget, but Gibson started that game against Bayern Munich in 2010, and scored a lovely goal after just three minutes. Of course, United were knocked out on away goals despite winning 3-2, but Gibson was also useful in beating Schalke in the 2010-11 semi-finals which ended 6-1 on aggregate, but alongside Dimitar Berbatov, John O’Shea, Johnny Evans and Rafael, he didn’t make the Champions League final team – and soon after left for Sunderland.
Ryan Giggs – @OllieHolt22
In that famous picture of the Class of 92, one of the images that best captures the success of the United youth system, it is Ryan Giggs who is at the front of the queue, his right forearm leaning on Eric Harrison’s shoulder.
Giggs was the brightest jewel of the great flowering of youth that drove the glory years of Sir Alex Ferguson, a thrilling, elusive winger, a breathtaking dribbler, who was not cowed by the comparisons to George Best. He was capable of the kind of individual brilliance that is granted only to a very few and his longevity was testimony to his intelligence and ability to adapt. A one-club man and a bona fide United great.
Keith Gillespie – @RyanRMUFC
One of the forgotten members of the Class of 92, he was a half-decent winger who never really had a chance to prove himself as he had the likes of Kanchelskis and Giggs on the wings who at the time were undroppable.
He obviously saw an opportunity for more game-time when the Andy Cole transfer happened – going the other way as part of the deal. His time at Newcastle wasn’t particularly memorable but that Andy Cole guy wasn’t a bad player!
There was talk of Fergie making an approach to bring him back to the club in the summer of 1995 after Kanchelskis left, but nothing came of it, and a lad called David filled in on the right instead.
Angel Gomes – @HarryRobinson64
Angel Gomes has been a ‘name’ for some years in the Man United academy, and became the youngest first-teamer since Duncan Edwards at the end of last season. It’s been quite a year with his debut, being named Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year (as the youngest player to win the prestigious award) and captaining England U-17s to World Cup glory. He’s creative, composed and intelligent with an excellent reading of the game. He has the talent to be the next carrier of the wonderful academy record, hopefully he can become that in years to come.
Mark Hughes – @UnitedRant
Every academy graduate is one of our own, but there was something about Mark Hughes that connected with supporters in a special way. Hughes wasn’t just a great striker, but the striker fans wanted to be. Spikey, courageous, scorer of great goals, Hughes seemed to personify United in the 1980s and early 90s.
Over two spells with the club Hughes scored 163 goals and made 473 appearances, but there was so much more than numbers to his game. He’ll be remembered for that outrageous volley in the 1990 FA Cup semi-final, and a stunning goal in the 1991 Cup Winners Cup final against Barcelona.
In management his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson was strained. He sometimes took on a bitter tone. We’ll forgive him. He’ll always be one of our own.
Adnan Januzaj – @DeanConstantino
An exciting prospect that showed his biggest promise under United’s least inspiring manager, David Moyes.
Perhaps his shortfall was coming through at a time when the club was in it’s biggest transition for the last 30 years. Big money was being spent on proven talent to try and inject instant success. Had he had a tutor like Sir Alex Ferguson I think we would have seen a different Januzaj after he was rewarded a lucrative contract.
With questions asked of his attitude at the club and on his loan spells, he was clearly lacking the guidance he needed to get his feet back on the ground.
His time at Sunderland didn’t do his career or confidence any justice. Left United for Real Sociedad with well wishes and watchful eyes in hope he regains the form and shows the promise he did so early on for us.
Michael Keane – @MrStephenHowson
The FA Youth Cup winning class of 2011 doesn’t get people as misty-eyed as the fabled ’92 side does. Maybe it’s because I’m too young, or maybe there’s been a lack of genuine quality teams at U-18s, but for me that team was one of the best to watch, at least in my lifetime.
Will Keane up front, Pogba and Morrison, Lingard, Tunnicliffe and Tom Thorpe. It was a certainty these lads would play for United one day. Michael was a little in the shadow, of his centre half partner Thorpe, and of his brother, Will.
But a shrewd career move to Burnley after several impressive loan spells and Michael has emerged as a genuine talent. Mature, strong and confident as he established himself at Turf Moor, a £30m move to Everton followed an international call up by England and it could be argued that, behind Pogba, Michael has had the best career from that whole class. Another success for the United academy!
Brian Kidd – @may26th1999
Brian Kidd is a year older than my dad. The latter pulled a sickie to go to Wembley and watch the former score on his 19th birthday to help United beat Benfica and become the first English team to win the European Cup.
A Collyhurst lad of similar age, Kidd, along with Denis, was held in great affection by my dad, who preferred them both to the more flamboyant Best and Charlton. A part of United’s youth set up at 15, first team at 17, European Cup winner at 19, Brian made over 200 appearances for United, scoring 52 times. 31 years passed before a youth player would get their hands on that same trophy.
Joshua King – @LarsMolsen
Joshua King’s United career was only two appearances as sub and in total 14 minutes on the pitch, but he has got a fine career playing Premier League football for Bournemouth and more than 30 caps and 10 goals for Norway.
He was a huge talent when he came to United as a 16-year-old from Vålerenga. He got his debut for United’s first team against Wolverhampton at Old Trafford in the League Cup in September 2009, playing the last 9 minutes. His second match came more than three years later, versus Galatasaray away, when he came on in the 85 minute.
Jesse Lingard – @BrentMaximin
Jesse Lingard divides opinion among Manchester United supporters, despite the fact that he should tick all the boxes for a homegrown hero. He’s a local lad and a lifelong Red who has worked his way up the ranks, and he’s scored in two cup finals – including his match-winning belter at Wembley.
No one has ever accused Jose Mourinho of being an easy man to impress, and yet Lingard has earned the manager’s trust, not only with his talent but with his discipline and industry. He might not be the most gifted United academy graduate, but he has earned his place.
Gary Neville – @UtdRantCast
The thing about Gary Neville is that it’s easy to forget who he was because of who he is now. He’s the arch-analyst, who goes so far out of his way on co-commentary to prove he isn’t biased in his old club’s favour that it occasionally goes beyond a joke. He’s the man with his finger in so many pies, a man looking to reshape Manchester’s skyline and build an empire.
But before any of that, he was a red. Was a red. Was a Red. Gary Neville was a red and while he might not have actually hated everyone from Liverpool he certainly hated the team. Watching him live out the dream that had burned in him on the Old Trafford terraces when he watched his side be second best season after season.
He was a badge grabber, a ref-baiter, a fighter for the cause. He was a terrier and a union rep in the dressing room and a busy little…well, you know the rest.
But he was also an absolute total and utter inspiration because here was a kid who was nowhere near as gifted as the players with whom he is forever associated but he grafted and grafted and grafted until he was fit to play in a team with them. He learned defensive positioning and applied those teachings all the way through his career. He was not much of a crosser so he practiced and practiced until, by the time David Beckham left, he was the best crosser at the club.
And above all, he was a red. Was a red. Was a red.
Phil Neville – @IwanLehnert
Phil Neville stands out from his Class of ’92 peers, predominantly because it was difficult to suggest that he made a role his own during his time at United. But what Neville offered throughout his time at the club was the same as many other utility men; he performed, worked hard and his effort was rarely found wanting. His brother and contemporaries may take all of the plaudits, but Phil should retain a special soft spot for his efforts wherever and whenever he was asked to play under Sir Alex Ferguson.
John O’Shea – @ODonnellDale
John O’Shea has had an illustrious career, spending over 10 years at Manchester United. He was always regarded as a fine utility player but no one could imagine the day he would step in goal for United against Spurs.
Sheasy also scored a superb chip against Arsenal in 2006, during the height of the rivalry both clubs shared. United fans have fond memories, who wasn’t the greatest player to wear the red shirt, but always gave his all.
David Platt – @RedStephen76
I have always wondered what would have happened if Sir Alex Ferguson was the manager at the time David Platt was an academy player. After 18 months in United’s academy he was released on a free transfer and signed for Crewe. He then made a name for himself at Crewe, where he scored a staggering 56 goals in 134 games from midfield. He enjoyed a successful spell with Aston Villa where, again, his goal scoring escapades caught the eye.
Platt though, will be remembered by a generation for his exploits in Italia 1990 scoring an iconic goal against Belgium, which earned him a move to Italy with Bari, Juventus and onto Sampdoria, for whom he managed for a short time.
He moved back to England and signed for Arsenal where he won the league and cup double in the 1997–98 season. He never kicked a ball in anger for United, but if Fergie was the manager at the time, you never know, he could have been a legend. Football, bloody hell.
Paul Pogba – @GregIanJohnson
The one who got away only to come back again as a world record-breaking heart transplant for United’s midfield. Anyone who still doubts his quality (or gets lost in a rage over his hairstyles) need only look upon a performance in which he is absent, through injury or rotation.
Pogba brings the drive and ideas that allow others to organise themselves around him. Ironically, he did not return as the prodigal son but to a prodigal club and his apprenticeship at Juventus will only help to ensure he can give United the direction they have lacked in midfield for far too long.
Marcus Rashford – @Ankaman616
There was a moment, after the dizzying 3-2 over Arsenal in 2016, where Marcus Rashford found himself being interviewed. He stood there, all green and innocent, his teenage body yet to thicken out and turn into a man’s, where the interviewer asked him if his debut league goal for Manchester United was his very first touch of the ball.
Rashford laughed, in that “yeyeye” way teenage boys do when they really excited and slightly embarrassed and went, in his broad Mancunian accent. “Yeah… just like in Europa.”
Marcus Rashford is Manchester United as how it likes to imagine itself: intrepid, handsome, good natured and blessed with grace under pressure. Fergie may have left and Jose has already teased about PSG, but Rashford is Manchester United. Young, talented, tricksy and well meaning. Clattering tap-ins out of sheer enthusiasm and just… having a go and pulling it off because that’s the United way.
Kieran Richardson – @Nashat_Hassan
Joining United’s academy from West Ham’s when he was 16, Richardson took a few seasons to establish himself as a member of the squad. Although he showed glimpses of quality, he was never able to earn a consistent place in the first team.
Many have blamed this on his supposedly arrogant attitude and overall laziness. In fact, he was one of the players singled out by Roy Keane in ‘that’ infamous MUTV rant. Fortunately, the midfielder still managed to forge a successful career for himself at several lesser Premier League clubs.
Giuseppe Rossi – @Liam11
Giuseppe joined United’s academy from Parma in 2004. The New Jersey Native was a real fan favourite at Old Trafford. A left-footed striker and a natural goalscorer.
He will mainly be remembered for his League Cup performances and Nemanja Vidic handing him his winners medal for performances in earlier rounds.
The thing I remember about Giuseppe was the amount of hat tricks he scored for the reserves. Not the tallest but his commitment and ability had the fans loving him.
Giuseppe was unlucky to be at United in the same era as players like Van Nistelrooy. He moved to Villarreal and had no trouble scoring goals. Fond memories.
Paul Scholes – @DoronSalomon
When I think of Paul Scholes I can’t help but smile. He embodied everything on the pitch that fans wished they were able to do themselves: goals, assists, the most spectacular range of passing and an ability to mistime tackles just for fun.
Like Giggs, he was able to reinvent himself over time, moving from a forward back to a quarterback style position. It’s amazing that football fans continue to debate his quality today, there’s no debate to be had… he was a genius.
Jonathan Spector – @TatianaMUFC
Jonathan Spector is an American defender, who most often plays as a right-back, as well as central defender and defensive midfielder. He was discovered by Manchester United when he was 17, joining the club in 2003. He made only 8 appearances for the club, finding it difficult to break into the first team.
He joined Charlton Athletic on loan from 2005-06 before joining West Ham for five years and Birmingham City for six years in the Championship.
Ironically, one of his biggest ups and downs with Manchester United was while he was at West Ham. In the second match of the 2010-11 season, United thrashed the London club 3-0 at Old Trafford, initiated by Spector’s foul on Giggs, resulting in a penalty scored by Rooney.
However, 3 months later, Spector was moved to a central midfield position, where he scored against United twice in a 4-0 League Cup loss – his two first goals in the English top flight. Spector signed for Orlando City this year, finishing 2nd bottom in the Eastern Conference.
Nobby Stiles – @Okwonga
A generation before Claude Makalele, there was Nobby Stiles; if Bobby Charlton was more akin to Eric Cantona, then Stiles was his Didier Deschamps, his water-carrier. Like Deschamps, Stiles’ technical gifts were overshadowed by his physical play; like Deschamps, he was tactically intelligent, and his passing was prompt, precise and progressive. Charlton may have been the blade for both club and country, but Stiles was always the willing hilt.
Dennis Viollet – @bifurcated_utd and @bifurcated_MBM
Dennis Sydney Viollet was born in Fallowfield on the 20th September 1933 to Fred the Red* and Duncan from Blue** (* **probably). He joined United at the age of fifteen, turned pro at sixteen and made his first team debut at nineteen. His first season was pretty terrible, or pretty good … we can’t decide: he only scored one goal, though he only made 3 appearances.
He would go on to bag double-figures for every following season as part of the Busby Babes. This included 32 league goals in 36 games in the season following the Munich air disaster, a record which stands to this day. We don’t know how to calculate xG or even what it is, but we reckon Dennis Viollet’s would be at least a 9. We’re old. But even we’re not old enough to have seen him play, so, we’re treating our other halves to a romantic night in, with a cheeky Nando’s, watching him plunder his 179 goals in the IMDb 8.5/10 rated documentary: A United Man.
Danny Welbeck – @Kennagq
Danny Welbeck, or ‘DAT guy’ as he is affectionately known by a large section of the United faithful, typifies the United youth policy. A local lad who was living his dream playing at the highest level for his childhood club. He was a fan favourite during his time at the club due to his pleasant personality and willingness to engage with fans.
As an attacker, he would stretch defences with his energetic forward play and tireless running, although his finishing and final third decision making left a lot to be desired. While he gave United fans a lot of good memories, chiefly that night in the Bernabeu, ultimately the mantle of leading the United forward line was a step too far for Danny. He was let go to pursue his dreams of being a Premier League proven no.9, albeit, to a direct rival. Wherever he goes, the memories remain and he will always symbolise the conveyor belt that is the United youth policy.
Norman Whiteside – @SamPilger
If Norman Whiteside had had one more yard of pace, he would have been one of the greatest players ever produced in British football,” the former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once astutely reflected.
It was meant as a compliment, and while it may well have been true; even without that yard of pace, Whiteside remains one of Manchester United’s greatest ever players.
During the Eighties, with United forced to live in Liverpool’s trophy-winning shadow, Whiteside provided United with a succession of cherished moments that made everything seem a little bit better.
The Milk Cup final goal against Liverpool in 1983, the FA Cup semi-final winning volley against Arsenal in 1983, a decisive goal in the 1983 FA Cup final replay against Brighton, and then his signature moment: his exquisite winner against Everton in the 1985 FA Cup final.
He would leave United at the ridiculously early age of 24 for Everton, but he had started so young he had already clocked up 274 appearances and 67 goals by then.
When Liverpool were winning everything, United could still boast of Norman Whiteside, and that meant a lot.
Norman Whiteside – @mufc_dan87
Norman Whiteside was precocious in everything he did. At 16 years of age, he became the youngest ever player to step onto the pitch in a Manchester United shirt. Just 12 months later, despite being still too young to have a drink in the pubs of his native Belfast, he became the youngest footballer to play in a World Cup, usurping a record then held by Pele.
Aged 18 years and 18 days, he became the youngest ever player to score in an FA Cup final. At 26, a career ravaged by serious injuries was cut short prematurely but the Shankill Skinhead remains a revered figure among United fans.
Eleven years at Old Trafford, 264 appearances and 67 goals, one of which remains etched in United’s folklore. Wembley in the glorious spring sunshine, United down to 10 men and wearing one of their best ever kits and a young lad from Belfast winning the FA Cup in extra time.
Ron-Robert Zieler – @R_o_M
Zieler joined United’s academy when he was 16-years-old and became the first choice goalkeeper for the U-18 side in his first season, playing in 22 games. He was also the sub goalkeeper several times for the reserves which earned him a winners’ medal for Manchester Senior Cup.
In his second season he shared goalkeeping duties with Ben Amos for the U-18s, before being promoted to the reserves the following season where he competed against Tom Heaton.
Zieler never made an appearance for the first team but was an unused substitute in a League Cup game against Middlesbrough when he was 19.
He has had a decent career since leaving United, doing well as Hannover’s no.1 for several seasons in the Bundesliga and now starts for Hamburg. He has made six appearances for the German national team and has a World Cup Winner’s medal after being named on the bench for the tournament, behind Manuel Neuer in pecking order.
Made in Manchester is an eBook which documents the stories of some of our greatest academy graduates. Contributors include Tony Park (Sons of United), Daniel Taylor (chief football writer at The Guardian), Andy Mitten (editor of United We Stand), Tom Clare (author of Forever a Babe), Daniel Harris (writes for The Guardian) and Ollie Holt (Chief Sports Writer at The Mail on Sunday), and many more top United writers.
The RoM 2019-20 Season Preview is available for just £6. It includes an EXCLUSIVE interview with Rafael Da Silva, a Q&A with the country's top journalists, articles by brilliant United writers, and so much more. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.