Manchester United’s 20 youngest debutants of the Premier League era - Where are they now?

  • Rob Swan

Manchester United have produced some incredible young footballers over the past few decades.

The club’s famed youth academy has been responsible for moulding the likes of Bobby Charlton, George Best, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Paul Pogba, the Neville brothers and many others.

And United also boast one of the more remarkable statistics in football. At least one youth team graduate has been included in every Man Utd matchday squad dating back to October 30, 1937.

But who are the 20 youngest United debutants of the Premier League and, more interestingly, what happened to them all?

Let’s take a closer look…

20. Marcus Rashford

Debut: Man Utd 5-1 FC Midtjylland (Feb 2016)

Age: 18 years, 3 months, 25 days.

Whatever happened to this lad?

Rashford was handed his chance to shine in a Europa League match against FC Midtjylland after Anthony Martial was injured in the warm-up and he responded by scoring two goals. He then scored another brace on his Premier League debut against Arsenal three days later.

The England international is currently going through a difficult period in his career – not everyone is convinced that the 21-year-old is good enough to lead the line for the Red Devils – but he remains a talented forward with a bright future ahead of him.

19. Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Debut: Man Utd 3-2 Arsenal (Feb 2016)

Age: 18 years, 1 month, 26 days.

Fosu-Mensah, like Rashford, was handed his Man Utd debut by Louis van Gaal.

The defender, who arrived from Ajax as a youngster in 2014, went on to make a further nine appearances for United during the 2015/16 campaign. He then played 11 times under Jose Mourinho the following season before joining Crystal Palace on loan in 2017.

The Netherlands international spent time on loan at Fulham last season and is now back at Old Trafford.

18. Rafael

Debut: Man Utd 1-1 Newcastle (August 2008)

Age: 18 years, 1 month, 8 days.

A favourite with the Man Utd supporters, Rafael always gave 100 per cent whenever he wore the famous red shirt.

The Brazilian spent seven years with United, leaving Manchester for Lyon in 2015, and is still plying his trade in France now.

The 29-year-old is still a United fan at heart and always keeps an eye out for his former club’s results.

17. Phil Neville

Debut: Man Utd 5-2 Wrexham (Jan 1995)

Age: 18 years, 7 days.

The younger of the two Neville brothers, Phil made his United debut a few years after Gary.

He went on to make 386 appearances for the club before joining Everton in 2005.

Neville was a huge hit at Goodison Park, where he spent eight seasons and became the club’s captain.

He then followed David Moyes to Old Trafford and became a coach at United before becoming Valencia’s assistant manager in 2015.

The 42-year-old is now the current manager of the England Women’s national team and regularly pops up on TV as a pundit.

16. Kieran Richardson

Debut: Olympiakos 2-3 Man Utd (Oct 2002)

Age: 18 years, 2 days.

A decent footballer but perhaps not quite Manchester United standard.

He would go on to play for Sunderland, Fulham and Aston Villa and Cardiff City.

Richardson was released from his contract at Cardiff in December 2016 and hasn’t played for a club since, barring a trial with La Liga side Granada in 2017.

The 34-year-old has still not officially retired from football but it’s difficult to see him coming back now.

15. Darron Gibson

Debut: Man Utd 4-1 Barnet (Oct 2005)

Age: 18 years, 1 day.

A central midfielder of considerable talent, Gibson scored 10 goals in 60 games for United between 2005-2012.

He went on to play for Everton, Sunderland and Wigan Athletic but, at the age of 31, is currently without a club.

The Republic of Ireland international narrowly avoided a prison sentence in May 2018 after admitting drink-driving. He was instead given a two-year community order.

14. Mads Timm

Debut: Maccabi Haifa 3-0 Man Utd (Oct 2002)

Age: 17 years, 11 months, 28 days.

Man Utd handed Timm, a Danish midfielder, another chance after he was sentenced to 12 months in a young offenders’ institute for dangerous driving in March 2005.

However, the highly-rated youngster failed to fulfil his potential, leaving United for Odense in 2006 but never achieving noteworthy in the game.

He retired from football in August 2009 because of injuries and a lack of motivation, before resuming it again two years later with Danish football club Kerteminde.

13. James Garner

Debut: Crystal Palace 1-3 Man Utd (Feb 2019)

Age: 17 years, 11 months, 14 days.

Garner was handed his senior debut by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer earlier this year but we’ve seen very little of the midfielder since.

The 18-year-old briefly appeared in pre-season – scoring his first goal for the club against Perth Glory – and can expect further opportunities to shine over the course of the current campaign.

12. Chris Eagles

Debut: Leeds 2-3 Man Utd (Oct 2003)

Age: 17 years, 11 months, 09 days.

After three years in Man Utd’s youth academy, Eagles made his debut as a second-half substitute in a League Cup clash against Leeds United at Elland Road.

The winger played a total of 17 games for the Red Devils, scoring one goal, before being offloaded to Burnley in 2008.

He went on to play for various clubs in the Football League – including Blackpool, Charlton, Bury and Accrington Stanley – and also had a brief spell in Scotland with Ross County.

The 33-year-old currently plays for Oldham Athletic in League Two.

11. Nicky Butt

Debut: Man Utd 3-0 Oldham (Oct 1992)

Age: 17 years, 10 months, 0 days.

Part of United’s famed Class of ’92 side, Butt enjoyed 12 successful years at Old Trafford before joining Newcastle in 2004.

The England international retired in 2011, following a stint with South China, and has been back at United working as a coach in recent years.

The 44-year-old is currently the head of first-team development at Old Trafford. He also co-owns Salford City along with a few of his former teammates.

10. Danny Welbeck

Debut: Man Utd 3-1 Middlesbrough (Sept 2008)

Age: 17 years, 09 months, 28 days.

United fans were disappointed to see Welbeck, a Manchester lad, leave the club for Arsenal in 2014.

However, the decision to let the striker go was, in hindsight, probably a smart one.

Welbeck isn’t a prolific goalscorer and has also struggled with injuries throughout his topsy-turvy career.

Still just 28, Welbeck joined Watford in the summer.

9. Giuseppe Rossi

Debut: Man Utd 2-0 Crystal Palace (Nov 2004)

Age: 17 years, 09 months, 9 days.

“Without question, Giuseppe is the most natural goalscorer we have had come through the club since Paul Scholes.”

These were the words of Sir Alex Ferguson himself back in 2005.

Rossi was extremely highly rated at Old Trafford but, for one reason or another, it never quite happened for him in the first team.

After scoring just one goal in 13 appearances on loan for Newcastle, United sold him to Villarreal, where he was a big hit.

Rossi scored 82 goals in 192 games for the Spanish outfit – including 32 in 56 during his most prolific season – but a series of serious injuries cost him a couple of years of his career.

The 32-year-old, who was most-recently with Genoa, is currently a free agent and trained with United briefly over the summer to keep up his fitness.

8. Gerard Pique

Debut: Crewe 0-3 Man Utd (Oct 2004)

Age: 17 years, 08 months, 28 days.

It seems weird now that Man Utd used to have Pique on their books.

He played 23 times for United but was unable to cement a place in the first team due to the legendary defensive partnership between Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Pep Guardiola made Pique one of his first signings after becoming Barcelona’s manager in 2008 and the rest is history.

Pique, 32, is now one of the most decorated footballers of all time and is still one of the first names on the teamsheet at Camp Nou.

7. Ravel Morrison

Debut: Man Utd 3-2 Wolves (Oct 2010)

Age: 17 years, 08 months, 7 days.

One of the most talented footballers United have ever produced if you believe the likes of Ferguson and Ferdinand, Morrison is unfortunately a sad tale of wasted talent.

The 26-year-old has jumped from club to club since leaving Old Trafford in 2012 and is now attempting to get his career back on track with Sheffield United.

We’d all love to see the 26-year-old at his best, ripping up the Premier League.

6. Joshua King

Debut: Man Utd 1-0 Wolves (Sept 2009)

Age: 17 years, 08 months, 8 days.

Like many talented youngsters, King struggled to find a way into the United first team and ended up leaving the club in 2013.

After a two-year spell with Blackburn, King sealed a move to Bournemouth, where he continues to flourish.

The 27-year-old has scored 46 goals in 152 games for the south-coast club.

5. Regan Poole

Debut: Man Utd 5-1 FC Midtjylland (Feb 2016)

Age: 17 years, 08 months, 7 days.

Poole appeared as a substitute against FC Midtjylland in 2016 and was never seen in a United shirt again.

He went on loan to Northampton Town and Newport County before signing for MK Dons on a free transfer in the summer.

4. Federico Macheda

Debut: Man Utd 3-2 Aston Villa (April 2009)

Age: 17 years, 07 months, 14 days.

The scorer of one of the most famous debut goals of the Premier League era, Macheda appeared to have the world at his feet aged 17.

But it soon became clear that he wasn’t quite at the level required to lead the line at Old Trafford.

After various loan moves, the Italian eventually joined Cardiff City in 2014. The 28-year-old then signed for Novara in Italy’s second tier before a move to Greek giants Panathinaikos in 2018.

3. Gary Neville

Debut: Man Utd 0-0 Torpedo Moscow (Sept 1992)

Age: 17 years, 06 months, 29 days.

Arguably Manchester United’s greatest ever right-back and certainly the best right-back of the Premier League era, Gary Neville went on to make 602 appearances for the Red Devils, winning a host of major honours along the way.

The 44-year-old tried his hand at coaching – working alongside Roy Hodgson with the England national team before his ill-fated spell with Valencia – and has also established his status as the best pundit on British television.

Neville also has various business projects on the go and is a co-owner of Salford City.

2. Mason Greenwood

Debut: PSG 1-3 Man Utd (March 2019)

Age: 17 years, 05 months, 3 days.

Man Utd have high hopes for the 18-year-old but, as this list shows, there’s no guarantee that success will follow an early debut.

Greenwood appears to have all the tools required to become a top striker but only time will tell whether he can fulfil his promise.

1. Angel Gomes

Debut: Man Utd 2-0 Crystal Palace (May 2017)

Age: 16 years, 08 months, 20 days.

The youngest player to represent United since Duncan Edwards in 1953, as well as the first player born in the 2000s to appear in the Premier League, Gomes has long been tipped for big things.

At 19, though, it’s time for the England Under-20 international to take his chances in the first team and really begin to kick on.

Solskjaer certainly has faith in the teenage playmaker, who has the talent to become a major star.

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