The Busby Babes and the Class of 92 have created a romance with home-grown players at Manchester United. The history of being able to dominate English and European football with a core of home-grown players has created a legacy that Jose Mourinho must uphold to completely keep the Old Trafford supporters on side.
During his second spell at Chelsea (2013-15), Jose Mourinho gave debuts to five academy players with Ruben Loftus Cheek topping the rankings making three appearances in Chelsea’s Premier League campaign. However, Chelsea won the FA Youth Cup every year from 2013-15 and the UEFA Youth League in 2014 and 2015 but still academy players were given limited changes. When compared to the ‘class of 92’ who only won the FA Youth Cup in 1992 it would appear that talent alone is not the only metric that enables a player to break through into the First Team.
In the 2016/17 season Manchester United academy products played more than twice as many minutes than any other side in last year’s Premier League, according to a Press Association Sport study. A total of 35 Footballers graduated from Manchester United’s academy playing a total of 44,055 minutes but only Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard were regulars for the Red Devils. The other notable former graduates included Darren Fletcher, Tom Heaton, Michael Keane,. Danny Drinkwater and Danny Simpson.
Furthermore, soccerway,com calculated the percentage of minutes that home grown players received during the 2016./17 season. Manchester United were a close second to Arsenal with 17.1% of minutes being attributed to home-grown players as opposed to 19.4% at Arsenal. On the face of it, it appears that Jose Mourinho is changing his mentality to youth development and giving players a chance in the first team. However, the sceptic in me wants to point out that the majority of these minutes were in the lead up to the Europa League win, which was crucial to Manchester United’s Champions League qualification.
It cannot be a coincidence that the class of 92 was so successful because Sir Alex Ferguson sold key players Paul Ince, Brian McClair and Mark Hughes to give the academy graduates the opportunity to flourish. Even Alan Hansen was sceptical with his phrase “you can’t win anything with kids” but was proven wrong as Manchester United stormed to the league title.
Jose Mourinho’s attitude to youth development is changing and it is evident that he is giving more opportunities to academy graduates at Manchester United than he did at Chelsea. The next step is to build a core of home grown players to establish the next period of dominance for Manchester United. Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Scott McTominay have already broken through but will players like Angel Gomes, Callum Gribbin and RoShaun Williams follow suit.