Manchester United were recently crowned Premier League champions for a record 20th time as they despised of the former Champions and cross-city rivals Manchester City.
Manchester United have a legacy of winning trophies in all the major club competitions and that success is very much down to the fact that they groom their younger talents into becoming world-class players of tomorrow.
At the PFA awards, Sir Alex Ferguson was invited up on to the stage with Manchester United’s former youth team coach Eric Harrison and the Class of '92.
United’s emphasis was on youth continues a culture that has been in existence since 1937. Manchester United are adept at setting records and their remarkable run of naming homegrown players in their match day squad continued at Arsenal at the Emirates, where the Premier League champions drew 1-1 with Arsene Wenger’s team. An extraordinary run continued. At least one homegrown player has been in the United squad for 3,638 consecutive games.
There has only been one exception: the match at Arsenal on May 1 2011 when a homegrown player did not play. On that occasion John O’Shea, who turned 32 yesterday, was left on the substitutes’ bench. This incredible run stretches back to October 1937 and is a record unrivalled in the English game.
The record in itself not only states Manchester United’s dedication to youth, but also gives an insight as to how the Manchester United team has consistently been competing for the top honours in England, and indeed in Europe, for more than two decades.
Arguably Manchester United’s and Ferguson’s most successful youth products was the Class of '92 with players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Robbie Savage amongst others went on to represent Manchester United and England on the world stage.
Ferguson is steadfast in moulding together another group of players who can rival the Class of '92 when it comes to their standing within the game. Sir Alex identifies the importance of bringing through players who are stitched into the fabric of his football club from an early age which means they understand what it is to play for a club of Manchester United’s stature and standing.
Within the current United squad Jonny Evans, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher, Danny Welbeck, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes all came through the United academy system. It would be effortless to assume that Manchester United have the youth system well marshalled but when it comes to European teams producing first-team players, Barcelona, Lyon and Real Madrid are the only clubs in Europe ahead of United based on current statistics.
Manchester United lie eighth in a list behind Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona, Real Sociedad, Montpellier, Sochaux, Lyon and Bordeaux of the number of home grown players in their current first-team squad.
The major success story though is that no other club in English football produces as many players for the national team as United. Some of them, such as Cleverley and Welbeck, are regular members of Roy Hodgson’s England squad. Other players like Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young, were brought in from other clubs.
To win titles and remain a European force Manchester United have to buy talent from other clubs and it is very likely Ferguson will spend big again this summer as he prepares for the renewed threat of Manchester City and Chelsea next season but somewhere in the backdrop, United will be preparing another group of players to eventually come through the academy system and establish themselves in the first-team picture
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