Sir Alex Ferguson tipped seven Manchester United youngsters for greatness in 2001

Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the greatest managers football has ever seen.

He led Manchester United to 13 Premier League titles as they dominated England. He also helped the Red Devils conquer Europe, winning the Champions League on two occasions.

Sir Alex might be legendary but that doesn’t mean the Scot didn’t make the odd mistake.

After all, he did sign the likes of Bebe, Kleberson and Eric Djemba-Djemba.

Yeah, he wasn’t always the best judge of character.

And another example of that has emerged.

Back in 2001, United had just won the Premier League for a third consecutive season and Ferguson tipped seven youngsters that he thought were destined for greatness.

“We’ve got some terrific prospects at Old Trafford,” he told the official club website at the time.

“Darren Fletcher, who we hope will get over his broken leg, is good. Michael Stewart and Luke Chadwick are doing very well, and John O’Shea’s doing well too. There’s a young left back called Paul Tierney who’s doing well, as is Danny Pugh.

“But there’s a young boy who has started now, he’s 16, called Kieran Richardson. He’s going to be a fantastic player.”

So, how did their careers pan out?

Let’s take a look:

Darren Fletcher

Fletcher probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he wasn’t quite as glamorous or skilful as his teammates. But the Scot made almost 350 appearances over 13 seasons winning five league titles and the Champions League. No wonder Fergie mentioned him first.

Michael Stewart

The defensive midfielder didn’t get too many opportunities at Old Trafford with Roy Keane ahead of him. He played eight times in the Premier League and was capped four times for Scotland but was sent out on loan to Nottingham Forest and then Hearts. But in the summer of 2004, Ferguson allowed him to leave on a free transfer where he returned to his native Scotland with Hibernian and then Hearts again. A move to Genclerbirligi in Turkey followed but an injury prevented him from making any appearances. He finished his career with nine appearances at Charlton 2010–11 season.

Luke Chadwick

Chadwick did manage 38 first-team appearances for United but many of them came in cup competitions. Permanent spells at West Ham, Stoke, Norwich and Milton Keynes followed. He then joined him home town club Cambridge United before finishing his career Isthmian League Division One North side Soham Town Rangers. He now works as a coach in the Cambridge United academy.

John O’Shea

Perhaps the most successful player in this list of seven. O’Shea played almost 400 times for the club, winning 14 trophies. His versatility was invaluable to Ferguson – even playing in goal against Tottenham once. After leaving United, he spent seven seasons at Sunderland and retired after his last season at Reading. He’s now the first-team coach for the Royals.

Paul Tierney

No, not the referee. Tierney won the Jimmy Murphy young player of the year award in 2002 but failed to make a first-team appearance for the club. Spells at Livingston and Blackpool followed before finishing his career with a month-long stint at Conference National club Altrincham.

Danny Pugh

Pugh made his Manchester United debut in the Champions League in the 2002/03 season but only made a further six appearances for the club. He left for Leeds in a deal that saw Alan Smith join the Red Devils. Then came spells at Preston and Stoke – where he returned to the Premier League. He returned to Leeds before going on a tour of the Football League with Coventry, Bury, Blackpool and Port Vale – where he’s a player-coach at the age of 37.

Kieran Richardson

“There’s a young boy who has started now, he’s 16, called Kieran Richardson. He’s going to be a fantastic player.”

Was Fergie right?

Well, Richardson never really established himself as a first-team regular despite playing 81 times. He remained in the Premier League with Sunderland and then Fulham and Aston Villa. He finished his career in the Championship with Cardiff during the 2016/17 campaign. He did also earn eight England caps, scoring two goals.

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