United’s Academy complex, which stands opposite the main building, was officially opened by Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton in December 2002 and cost £8m to build.
Split over two levels, it was unveiled nearly three years after the main building was completed. The ground floor comprises 12 dressing rooms (one of which is for match officials), as well as a full-size indoor artificial pitch. Aside from being used for football activity - the first team will during times of inclement weather train there - the pitch is also the setting for various commercial events such as kit photo-shoots and interviews during the season. It is also used by Manchester United Soccer Schools and other club departments who hold one-off football clinics.
On most evenings, the facilities – which also include a full-size outdoor artificial pitch - are used by the club’s youth teams from Under 11’s onwards. High above the pitch is a balcony from which proud parents can watch on. Also, on the first floor is a classroom which is used for educational sessions with United’s young scholars, as well as a main reception room which is the location for Sir Alex’s weekly press conference. The building is adorned throughout with visual reminders of the players who have worn the well-trodden path through United’s ranks, while a plaque on the balcony reads: ‘Our responsibility to the future of this game is to give budding talent the very best opportunity to flourish. The Academy is just such a place, a proving ground for tomorrow’s heroes.’
“We do, as much as possible, try to educate them and give them bites of what it’s been like in youth development in the last 50-odd years at United,” says Academy manager and ex-Red Brian McClair. “There are also photographs in the Academy building of players who have come through the development system before them. That’s what they must aspire to.”