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It is a moot point whether Manchester United or Barcelona have better player development.
In the EPL, United have no equals and in Europe probably no better over the last 66 years.
Seven of the team who started against Manchester United in the ECL Final were produced from Barcelona's La Masia system. However, this does not mean that they haven't spent heavily to augment this production line.
Pique cost £6 million to buy back from United; Fabregas £35m from Arsenal; Villa £34m; and Sanchez £23m. They have hardly eased either the debt (58 percent of Forbes estimated club worth), nor the salary bill, where the cost per player is estimated to be second only to Real Madrid.
Real Madrid is now renowned for its "Galacticos"—players of world class status, signed at great cost. The most famous include Cristiano Ronaldo (signed at £80m) and Zidane.
Madrid in fact have a much longer tradition of producing their own players and the 1966 European Cup was won with a team entirely composed of Spanish players. La Masia at Barcelona was only born in 1979 as the creation of Johan Cruyff.
However, it could be argued that Sir Matt Busby was the father of youth development with a tradition now captured by the Manchester United Academy. Although some of the Busby Babes—like Tommy Taylor—were bought in, several were homegrown.
United have won the FIFA Youth Cup 17 times and the FA Youth Cup 10 times, including the first five ever played, from 1953 to 1957 and 2011.
All five of the club's top all-time appearance makers were products of the youth system that Sir Matt established in 1945, as were "Fergie's Fledglings."
The production line continues, including Giggs, Welbeck, Cleverley, Evans, Fletcher, Macheda, Gibson, Amos, Pogba and Morrison in the present first team squad.
Also waiting in the wings with a bright future are: Will Keane, Reece Brown, Scott Wootton, Robbie Brady, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Ezekiel Fryers (who played against Leeds), John Cofie, Larnell Cole, Jesse Lingard and a whole host of other young talent, including a total of 30 who have been capped at international level.