Manchester United academy still a class above the rest, study shows

Manchester United’s academy made the single biggest contribution to last season’s Premier League of any youth set-up, a Press Association Sport study has found.

Their graduates racked up more than twice as many top-flight minutes played as the next best academy.

Players who finished their youth careers in the United academy were on the field for a total of 44,055 minutes in the study. Tottenham were second, with a total of 21,668.

The Red Devils’ reputation for developing home-grown talent extends back to the ‘Busby Babes’ of the 1950s and continued through the ‘Class of ’92’ group which played a part in the United side that dominated domestic football in the 1990s and won the treble in 1999.

Minutes played in 2016/17 Premier League by clubs' academy graduates
Minutes played in 2016/17 Premier League by clubs’ academy graduates (PA Graphics)

Our study, using publicly available data from soccerway.com, shows that the United academy is still the number one producer of top-flight talent in England.

In their own line-up, France midfielder Paul Pogba – who rejoined United last summer in an £89million deal – racked up 2,609 minutes while England internationals Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard played 1,702 and 1,367 minutes respectively.

Other non-United players to make significant contributions to the Red Devils academy total included Burnley duo Michael Keane and Tom Heaton, who each played 3,150 minutes. England defender Keane has since joined Everton.

Bournemouth striker Joshua King played 2,721 minutes, while Leicester pair Danny Simpson (2,990) and Danny Drinkwater (2,466) were also key to the high total for United.

Marcus Rashford played 1,367 minutes for Manchester United last season
Marcus Rashford played 1,367 minutes for Manchester United last season (Martin Rickett/PA)

Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross played 3,150 minutes while relegated Sunderland used five United academy products during the season – John O’Shea, Donald Love, Paddy McNair, Darron Gibson and Adnan Januzaj. West Brom duo Jonny Evans (2,638) and Darren Fletcher (3,235) also came through the United system.

The biggest contributor to Tottenham’s total who still plays for the club was Harry Kane, with 2,536 minutes played in a season disrupted by injury.

Spurs graduates Charlie Daniels and Adam Smith each played over 3,000 minutes for Bournemouth, and Andros Townsend played 2,528 minutes for Crystal Palace.

Manchester City graduates managed 16,226 minutes to place the club third, but almost all of those were played by players who have moved on from the Etihad Stadium. Kelechi Iheanacho (526 minutes) was the only City youth product to feature in their first team in the Premier League under Pep Guardiola all season.

City graduate Ben Mee at Burnley played 3,016 minutes while Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel featured for 2,667 minutes.

Harry Kane is a product of Tottenham's youth academy and played 2,536 minutes last season
Harry Kane is a product of Tottenham’s youth academy and played 2,536 minutes last season (Danny Lawson/PA)

Adam Clayton at Middlesbrough, another City youth player, played 2,806 minutes and Stoke midfielder Glenn Whelan played 2,278.

Southampton finished fourth in the study, with 14,340 minutes, while West Ham were fifth on 13,907.

Of last season’s European qualifiers from the Premier League, Liverpool are the only one not to feature in the top 10, ranking 17th in the study with 8,753 minutes.

At the other end of the scale, relegated Hull produced the fewest minutes of any Premier League team – just 501, shared between their own players Josh Tymon (325) and Jarrod Bowen (176).

The Tigers were the only club not to have a graduate feature for any other top-flight team and their youth products also lagged over 1,000 total minutes behind those of Watford, the second-lowest ranked Premier League club in the study with 1,513 minutes. Almost exactly half of the Hornets’ total came from Manchester United winger Ashley Young (757 minutes), with the rest from their own players led by Adrian Mariappa (561).

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