Manchester United have been known for giving youth a chance for decades now. And even though the recent seasons have seen the youth academy produce very few quality players, United have benefited in the past due to the emergence of world-class players from their youth set-up. And that is the only reason why Van Gaal lasted longer than he should’ve, hiding behind his flaws by raising the “But, But… I’m promoting so many academy players” placard whenever his job was in question. Sir Alex Ferguson genuinely trusted youth, and each of his world-class squad has been an amalgamation of experience and youth. This is also why Mourinho’s under the pressure of following in the tradition of his predecessors. Well, without wasting any further time, let’s get down to business, with the list of the Seven Best Youth Academy Players Ever at Manchester United.
Mark Hughes (1978-1986 and 1988-1995)
Mark Hughes, who swiftly broke into the first-team after leaving school, partnered Frank Stapleton in attack in the beginning of his career, as Norman Whiteside was switched to midfield. He left for Barcelona and after a disappointing season, he was loaned to Bayern Munich. But in 1988, he rejoined United in a then world-record fee. He was United’s top scorer in 1993, when the club won the Premier League for the first time, and will mostly be fondly remembered for his 1994 FA Cup Semi-Final goal against Oldham Athletic, which has been rated as one of United’s best ever goals.
David Beckham (1991-2003)
Beckham joined United as a trainee at the age of 11 and was a part of the Famed Class of ’92. He became a superstar in no time, and even after a bust-up with Sir Alex which resulted in a €35m move to Real Madrid, he cemented his status as a club legend, and will forever be remembered as one of the best (if not the best) free-kick takers ever. He went on to play for LA Galaxy and AC Milan as well, before hanging up his boots in 2003 following a short spell with Paris Saint-Germain.
Paul Scholes (1991-2013)
Another esteemed member of the Class of ’92, Paul Scholes is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders ever in the world. His vision, passing, and long-shooting were simply majestic and made him the best United midfielder ever. He was a one-club-man, and retired in 2013 for a second and the final time, having won literally everything there was to be won at club level with United.
Gary Neville (1991-2011)
Considered as one of the best right-sided full backs ever, Gary Neville was another member of the (no prizes for guessing that!) Class of ’92. He won ever major honour at club level (20 trophies to be exact!) and even skippered the club for a period of 5 years. He retired in 2011 having played 400 games for the Old Trafford club. These days he’s a key pundit for Sky Sports.
The best ever winger to have scored in more than 20 Premier League seasons, Ryan Giggs was a hell of a player. He holds the record for the most appearances for United and is widely regarded the greatest ever Academy player in recent years. He went out of the game in prime fashion, having won an amazing 35 trophies! He was United’s assistant manger up until 2016 and is now a pundit for Sky Sports.
Sir Bobby Charlton (1953-1973)
One of the best players to have ever graced the game, Sir Bobby Charlton needs no introduction. He has been United’s most prolific and greatest ever striker and held the record of the highest goalscorer for United up until last season when Rooney went ahead of him. Having joined United at the age of 15, he is considered as the most successful United academy graduate of all time.
George Best (1961-1974)
He was discovered at the age of 15 by United scout Bob Bishop in Belfast, whose telegram to then United boss Sir Matt Busby read, “I think I’ve found you a genius”. And indeed, he had. He made his debut aged 17, and scored 179 goals across 11 years, and was the club’s top scorer in the league for 5 consecutive seasons. He unexpectedly quit United at the age of 27, but will forever remain in our hearts as one of the greatest ever to don the sacred shirt.