Manchester United: Best youth academy in England?

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Football News

Manchester United produce more first-team players for clubs in Europe's top 5 leagues than any other team in England, according to research by Sporting Intelligence.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side are ranked fifth in the world behind the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, and French clubs Lyon and Rennes.

Twenty players who have graduated from the Old Trafford academy have gone on to play in the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 or Serie 'A', one less than French side Rennes who sit fourth with 21 'primary' academy products.

The research deemed a primary youth academy prospect to "belong" to a certain club if they had spent three or more years at the facility between the ages of 15 and 21.

For Manchester United, that meant the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Jonny Evans, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck all count as home-grown players, and the majority are now first-team regulars.

Other players to have come through the ranks at Old Trafford, only then to have moved on, include Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross, Sunderland's Phil Bardsley and Everton's Phil Neville, while Paul Pogba left this summer for Juventus.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Aston Villa came second behind United with 15 primary players, Arsenal third with 14, Tottenham and West Ham joint fourth with 13 home-grown players apiece.

Outside the Premier League, Barcelona are the undisputed kings - with a massive 38 players produced by the prolific La Masia academy. 36 of those were 'primarily' produced by the academy - that is they spent at least three years at the club before the age of 21 and Barcelona was their first club.

And it's not just the sheer scale of production that impresses, it's the unbelievably high talent level too.

Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Cesc Fabregas, and Gerard Pique are all home-grown players. World Cup winners and European champions abound.

The likes of Fabregas and Pique may have taken detours via north London and Manchester respectively, but they are deemed to be academy products in the 'secondary' sense - having spent time at two academies.

Ligue 1 club Olympique Lyonnais lie second behind Barcelona with 29 primary products, and two more secondary, while Real Madrid have 27 primary and two secondary.

Another French club, Stade Rennais, pip Manchester United with 21 primary products and three secondary. United have 20 primary, and four secondary.

The most high-profile graduate from the Stade Rennais academy in recent times is undoubtedly France international midfielder Yann M'Vila - a player who has been courted by a number of Premier League clubs.

Here's the top five from the Premier League

Manchester United - 24 total academy players

Arsenal - 20 academy players

Aston Villa - 15 academy players

West Ham - 13 academy players

Tottenham - 13 academy players

And here's the top 10 from Europe

Barcelona | La Liga - 38 academy products

Olympique Lyonnais | Ligue 1 - 31

Real Madrid | La Liga - 29

Stade Rennais | Ligue 1 - 24

Manchester United | Premier League - 24

Bayern Munich | Bundesliga - 23

Sochaux | Ligue 1 - 22

Real Sociedad | La Liga - 21

Atalanta | Serie 'A' - 21

Atletico Madrid | La Liga - 21

And here's a complete list...

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