Manchester United may have successfully integrated youth-team products into our senior squad but Head of Academy Nicky Butt says the search is on for the next Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard or Paul Pogba.
A study by Press Association Sport found that in terms of giving Premier League playing time to products of their own Academy in 2017/18, United ranked second in the division (6,858 minutes) for a second successive season. Also, as in 2016-17, the Reds could boast the Academy that had made the greatest contribution with regard to players who got minutes across the top-flight (20 players, 32,157 minutes).
The statistics are proof that the system is continuing to work but there is little chance of the club resting on our laurels as the aforementioned trio compete for places in Jose Mourinho's side, along with the likes of Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira.
Butt, who came through the United ranks himself, is acutely aware of the need to keep developing and promoting our own talent, with several of the Under-19s team he coaches already catching the eye and gaining senior experience on last summer's tour of the US.
“They [Rashford, Lingard and Pogba] are the shining examples of our Academy,
“ Butt told Press Association Sport.
“They are young boys who came through the ranks here. Marcus and Jesse are local boys who know the area, are Man United fans and I'm sure their families are as well.
“We're really proud and privileged to have them playing for us, and playing for their country and doing so well, but we've also got to look for the next ones. We can't just stand still and say: 'We have done well, they are going to be in the team for the next five, six, seven years', because it's never a given.
“We have to keep striving to get the next one – where's the next Jesse, the next Marcus, the next Pogba, when you can bring them in from abroad? That is our challenge as a club, that's our challenge as a scouting department.”
“The last 18 months, it has been amazing for us,
“ he added. ”We are very happy with our Academy. I think we are the biggest and the best one and we don't shout about it enough.
“We do it our way, and our way has been acknowledged and recognised as the best.”
Butt's side clinched top spot in Group H of the UEFA Youth League with a 6-2 demolition of Young Boys at Leigh Sports Village on Tuesday. The final fixture of the section is in Valencia but the Reds are already safely through to the last 16 of the competition.Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.