Ranking Manchester United's Top 10 Youth Team Prospects

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Ranking Manchester United's Top 10 Youth Team Prospects
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Nick Powell

Not since the class of 1992 have Manchester United had so many youth prospects coming through. That includes both Academy graduates and those still to come.

Not surprising, really, considering it is now more than 10 years since Rene Meulensteen was appointed technical skills coach. He is now First Team coach, of course, and he can see the fruits of the seeds that were sown all those years ago.

One of the major influences was to equip these young talents to play in almost any role. So if you arrived with a defensive bent, you were taught to attack and vice versa.

A good example is Tom Cleverley. At 15 he was a budding left back, but he was played in midfield, and started scoring goals. The rest is history.

Sixty years ago, Sir Matt Busby, expected to spend money to build a title winning team, decided to give 16 and 17 year olds their chance. So emerged the first Busby Babes.

Forty years later Fergie's Fledglings arrived. It has been part of the Manchester United culture since Busby to produce home-grown youth. Hence the Academy. 

Sir Alex Ferguson's passion for young players is no less than his mentor. That is one of the main reasons why he had the imprimatur of his predecessor when appointed in 1986. Good habits have pervaded Manchester United at every level since.

Part of the Academy way, which will probably be applied at the FA's new St. George's facility, is the importance of being able to play together rather than being preoccupied with winning.

So it is at Manchester United in the Academy. It is about developing an array of technical skills, learning good habits, including the cult of the team, and being comfortable playing and passing at pace.

Take a player like Ryan Tunnicliffe. He has pace, is excellent defensively, can craft a pass or score a goal. In short, he's comfortable all over the pitch. Who knows, one day he could emulate Roy Keane.

And those good habits have been inculcated into the senior players, also. Wayne Rooney didn't arrive from Everton able to tackle and defend. He came as a raw talent that Ferguson knew could be moulded into one of the finest players United have ever had.

So Valencia was taught to defend; Rafael and Fabio Da Silva, also. They may have been talented wing backs but ball-winning wasn't their main skill.

Look at Daniel Welbeck as a good example. He is good at tracking back and winning the ball. Michael Carrick arrived as a "Rolls Royce" Trequartista and Ferguson turned him into a Regista because that was the role he needed him to play.

There is no way of knowing which of the current crop will make it long term at Manchester United until they've been given a meaningful run in the team.

Nevertheless there are some gems that stand out.

Before giving you an insight into the players to watch out for in the future, we need some definitions. Manchester United have several levels of team, but those listed on the website are: First Team; Under 21s; and Under 18s. 

The latter are included within the official "Academy" umbrella. While members don't play league football until they are well into their teens, we can for simplicity sake define a further level of Under 16s. These are regarded as "children" and matches are not allowed to be televised.

That does not mean that some talented younger players cannot get a chance in the Under 18s, but it gives us a basis to work from.

In the past, there have been several articles about the prospects of the likes of Robert Brady, Tunnicliffe, Davide Petrucci and Scott Wootton. So, for the purposes of this article we will only consider those youth players who would have qualified on age to play at international level for an Under 18 team.

This way you get to know some new names as well as some that may be familiar. As is common, we shall also rank these in ascending order. For those with a wider interest, the final slide lists those players from the Under 21s who we believe Manchester United should retain for the longer term.

So we offer you a selection of the gems and the rough-hewn stones that could be around in another 10 years' time. Nobody is promising another Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand or Welbeck, but hey ho, who knows?

Share which young prospects you think have what it takes to emulate the class of '92.

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