By 90Min
November 10, 2017

Manchester United shaped their success for more than a decade from the mid 1990s on the emergence of single generation of home-grown superstars that would, between them, go on to play a total of 3,460 games for the club and win 93 major honours combined.

Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville.

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Barcelona enjoyed similar home-grown success when seven academy graduates were in the team that beat United in the 2011 Champions League final. But the likes of Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets emerged over several years, not as a group.

United have failed to nurture another generation since. It is not a poor reflection on the club's academy, which continues to churn out players at a rate of knots - evidenced by the continuation of naming a home-grown player in every squad for 80 years - but a testament to the 'Class of '92' players, Eric Harrison - the youth coach who moulded them, and Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Following on from the emergence of the Busby Babes 40 years earlier, they were a 'once in a generation' phenomenon, maybe even 'once in a lifetime' for some.

In the 22 years since Phil Neville, who was slightly younger and therefore not actually part of the 1992 FA Youth Cup winning side, was the last of the group to make his senior debut in 1995, United have produced just five more home-grown players who can be considered a success.

Many others broke through to the first-team temporarily - Luke Chadwick, Kieran Richardson, Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverley - before ultimately fading away. In this context, 'success' is being loosely defined as making 100 or more senior appearances in a United shirt.

Wes Brown came just a few short years after the Class of '92, making his debut in 1998 and going to play just over 360 times for the club. The defender, who was often plagued by injuries, won five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues among other trophies..

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John O'Shea came next, playing 393 games - more than Beckham, Butt and Phil Neville - between his debut in 1999 and his eventual departure to Sunderland in 2011. He, like Brown, left Old Trafford with five Premier League medals, and also FA Cup and Champions League wins.

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Darren Fletcher was originally dubbed the 'new Beckham' when he first started out, eventually becoming a central midfielder whose influence was badly missed when he was wrongly suspended for the 2009 Champions League final. He left United in 2015 after 340 appearances.


Jonny Evans emerged as a capable back-up to Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand during the 2008/09 season. The centre-back played 34 times in all competitions during the campaign, finishing just two games shy of 200 when he was sold to West Bromwich Albion in 2015.

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Danny Welbeck, who was surprisingly sold to Arsenal in 2014, is the most recent United graduate to have reached 100 games for the club. He scored on his Premier League debut and finished on 142 appearances, as well as a Premier League title and two League Cups.

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After 99 United appearances to date, Jesse Lingard will join that group of 'successful' graduates when he next gets on the pitch. Marcus Rashford is not much further behind on 89 United games. Both have tremendous talent and potential, particularly Rashford, but each like the last five before them have emerged as individuals and not a 'Class of '92' style Golden Generation.

"I think this is the type of club that could do it," Gary Neville said recently when asked for his thoughts on the possibility of the 'Class of '92' being repeated (

"But it would be difficult...that's where Sir Alex had courage, if you think about the players he got rid of to make way for us - they were some of the best players the club has ever had. But that's where he had belief, and we had that belief."

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