By 90Min
April 17, 2018

Manchester United are well known for bringing players through their academy, and proudly declare that they have had at least one homegrown player in every squad since 1937. 

When United turned around a two goal deficit at the Etihad Stadium two weeks ago, they boasted five academy players in their squad, while local rivals Manchester City did not have one.

The successful youth team set up at United all started with the famous 'Busby Babes'. There was then the memorable 'Class of '92', and with The Red Devils' Under-18s beating City to win the regional league title last weekend, the academy looked to still be going strong.


However, the club's Under-23 side were demoted from Premier League 2 on Monday. But academy manager, Nicky Butt, insisted that the youth side's relegation is not a concern for the club.

"If you are not around the first team at 20 or 21 you're not going to be, it's a fact," he said, as quoted by BBC Sport

Butt explained that the Under-23s is not the main feeder into the first team. It is seen as more of a reserve side. The academy and the Under-18 sides are 'the key development tools' when producing players to progress to the first team. 

"We are expected to develop players for Manchester United and bring them into the first team. In that respect, I think the academy is thriving massively," said Butt.

The two latest academy graduates to star for the first team are Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay. Rashford only appeared for the Under-23s on two occasions, while McTominay played just 31 games. These figures confirm that the Under-23 side is not part of the pathway from the academy to the first team at Old Trafford.

Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

Some of the Under-23s will know that they have missed their chance to make it at United, and will be looking elsewhere or already out on loan. 

And current first team star Paul Pogba is someone who could've fallen into that category.

Pogba was enlisted as a young prospect, and the Frenchman joined the club's youth system at the age of 16. However, the midfielder did not have a smooth transition to first team, as many will know from his famous record breaking £89m transfer back to Old Trafford in 2016.

After joining the academy in 2009, Pogba was promoted to the first team in 2012. However, after a lack of first team opportunities, the French international quickly moved on, signing for Juventus. And when Jose Mourinho brought the midfielder back to Manchester for £89m, many believed that the club had made a huge mistake in letting the player leave for free four years earlier.


However, Butt does not see it the same way, as he suggested that if Pogba had stayed he may have played for the Under-23s for a couple of seasons and never had the opportunity to develop into the player he is now.

"There are players who go into the reserves for two or three seasons and they tread water. Pogba could have been one of those," said the former United star.

"When he was here, so were Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, who weren't exactly average players. Pogba left and became probably the best midfielder in the world at Juventus."

When speaking to BBC Sport, Butt also revealed his disappointment in the lack of youngsters striving to be a classic, conventional 'number 10 style' player.

"If you ask them, they will all want to be Messi.

"People should not forget how good Roy Keane and Steven Gerrard were, these box-to-box players that aren't the traditional modern academy. That is what we have to get out of."

(You may also be interested in 'Jose Mourinho Ready to Offload Paul Pogba and Trio of Teammates as Summer of Upheaval Approaches')

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