From Beckham To Butt: The Most Valuable Manchester United Academy Players

Ed Angeli

You will have to rewind to October 1937 to find a time when a homegrown Manchester United player did not feature in the first-team squad; all of 80 years ago in a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United under Walter Crickmer was when a United academy player was last excluded from the main team.

It’s an impressive stat for a side whose youth system has a strong reputation, one which keeps the likes of Jesse Lingard in a job: ‘Come on, it’s absolutely reasonable a player like Jesse is on 100K-per-week; he grew up in the academy’.

Despite Lingaard regularly making his best efforts to shoulder any bad press around the academy, the United youth system has still produced the likes of The Class of ’92 – not that you don’t hear about that group much – as well as current pin-up boy in Manchester, Marcus Rashford.

However, not all cases have been such a success. One of English football’s villains of Ravel Morrison began his turbulent career in the United academy, one which started with the highest praise from Sir Alex Ferguson – according to Rio Ferdinand – and ended up in Mexico with Club Atlas:

“Fergie said he was the best kid he’d ever seen, better than Giggsy or anyone. He was just playing the game as and when he wanted to play. He would slow it down, then speed it up.” — Rio Ferdinand

The failure from a football perspective was less embarrassing for United than the Paul Pogba one; a transfer where the club’s selling and rebuying of the Frenchman made the Red Devils the brunt of social media jokes last season.

However, some players have been a profitable gain. The horror show of Tyler Blackett’s United career still saw the Red Devils ship the defender on for a small fee of €1.8m. But, who makes the top 10 highest profitable players from the United academy since the Premier League began in 1992…

Who’d have thought John O’Shea would go on from the youth system to make one less appearance than David Beckham?

The total value of sales in transfers for United academy players equates to €142,655,000 – from 1992 – which when you consider the high status the youth system holds, isn’t an awful lot of money when you can’t buy the most expensive player in the world today with that fee.

However, the countless trophies and development the academy has brought the club is the reason for such a high reputation; endless and repeated success is exactly why you haven’t seen a United first-team without an academy player for 80 years.

Start the discussion

to comment