Some of football’s most memorable names have been honoured with winning Manchester United’s Young Player of the Year award, while others have failed to live up to their potential.
Known officially as the ‘Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award’ to honour Sir Matt Busby’s legendary assistant, the award is often a brilliant indicator as to who is the most highly rated young talent currently at the club, and a hint at how good they can become.
Talent doesn’t always guarantee the perfect career, though. We’ve checked in on the last 11 players to win the award to see what they’re up to in 2024.
Kobbie Mainoo (2022-23)
The most recent winner of the award, Mainoo continues to be the shining light in a rocky spell at United under Erik ten Hag.
Born and raised in Stockport, the midfielder has been with United since the age of nine and has very quickly become one of the first names on the team sheet following a strong 2023-24 pre-season and an eventual Premier League debut in November 2023, after shaking off a cruelly-timed injury.
It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but with INEOS now in control, if the 18-year-old is managed correctly, then there’s no reason why he can’t become one of the best in class for club and country.
Alejandro Garnacho (2021-22)
Winning the award capped off a stellar season for Garnacho, who scored a brace in the FA Youth Cup final and made his first-team debut aged 17 under Ralf Rangnick.
He’s had to learn on the job and learn quickly in the time since. Garnacho has been on the end of a tough love dynamic with Ten Hag, who hasn’t been afraid to demand a lot of him in public and ensure he doesn’t get ahead of himself, but the Argentina international has thrived under the pressure.
At the beginning of 2024, Garnacho – like Mainoo – is one of the first names on United’s team sheet and perhaps the most reliable attacker they have, having developed from an impact player from the bench into a starter with wicked feet and a consistent goal threat. The sky is very much the limit.
WHAT A GOAL ALEJANDRO GARNACHO!!!! 🤯🤯🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/L9h1inY5rT
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) November 26, 2023
Shola Shoretire (2020-21)
Joining United aged nine, Shoretire still holds the record for being the youngest player to feature in European competition for United, eclipsing Norman Whiteside as a substitute under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2021.
Since winning the award, however, the teenager appears to have gotten lost in the shuffle following Solskjaer’s departure, the Rangnick era and Ten Hag’s tenure. A 2023 loan to Bolton didn’t quite go as planned, but he’s since rediscovered some of his best form playing for United’s under-21 side.
He’s still only 19 and made the bench as United beat Wigan in the FA Cup, so time is on his side, especially if the Red Devils have to deal with any more injuries.
Anthony Elanga (2019-20)
Elanga emerged in United’s first-team after winning the award in 2020 and debuted under Solskjaer, but notably became one of Rangnick’s favoured players during his interim spell, famously scoring away at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League in February 2022.
After one season as a rotation option under Ten Hag, Elanga was sold to Nottingham Forest in 2023 for £15million. Despite their struggles, he’s enjoyed a strong first season at the City Ground and has racked up 10 goal contributions from 20 Premier League games thus far – a better rate than any of United’s attackers.
One that was perhaps sold too soon.
Mason Greenwood (2018-19)
Greenwood is currently on loan at La Liga side Getafe following an extended spell out of football after he was arrested and charged on suspicion of rape, assault and controlling behaviour, before the charges were dropped.
Tahith Chong (2017-18)
Much was expected of Chong when United snapped him up from Feyenoord’s academy in 2016 when he was just 16.
Despite a 10-month injury layoff, Chong bounced back, ripped it up at youth level and won the award before eventually making his first-team debut in January 2019. A series of loan spells showed mixed success, and after failing to nail down a spot at United, he turned a temporary spell with Birmingham permanent in 2022.
Luton Town signed 24-year-old Chong ahead of their promotion to the Premier League, who scored his first Premier League goal against Liverpool. He’s enjoyed a respectable first season with the Hatters thus far.
Angel Gomes (2016-17)
When Gomes replaced Rooney on the final day of the 2o16-17 season under Jose Mourinho, it felt like the first of what would be hundreds of United appearances.
The then-16-year-old’s name had already been spoken about highly and the debut was much anticipated. He got lost in the shuffle as United chopped and changed managers, though, and turned down a new contract with the club in 2020 in a bid to find regular first-team football.
Joining Lille, it’s taken him some time to get going, but Gomes – now 23 – is flourishing in Ligue 1 and is beginning to look like exactly the sort of player United would’ve loved in their midfield right about now. He could still prove to be the one that got away.
Marcus Rashford (2015-16)
It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years this year since Rashford burst onto the scene under Louis van Gaal with his debut Europa League brace, only getting his opportunity due to an injury crisis.
Since then, it’s been one hell of a rollercoaster ride. Away from the pitch, Rashford has developed into a role model and been awarded an MBE, while on the pitch he’s shown glimpses of being a truly elite talent.
After a career-best campaign in Erik ten Hag’s first season, though, he’s flattered to deceive again in 2023-24 and taken plenty of criticism. He needs a strong year to remind people what he’s capable of. At 26, he’s entering his prime and cannot waste it.
Axel Tuanzebe (2014-15)
Injury and subsequent inconsistency seemed to ruin what looked nailed on to be a career at United for Tuanzebe, who earned plenty of praise for his potential in his youth.
Tuanzebe remains the only defender to win the award since Craig Cathcart in 2006-07 and lived up to his promise for a long time, before injuries got the better of him and scuppered his development at United.
Loan spells to Aston Villa, Napoli and Stoke were ultimately not enough to relight the fire and he left for free in 2023, reuniting with former United coach Kieran McKenna at Ipswich, where his minutes have been managed incredibly carefully. We’ll never forget that performance away to Paris Saint-Germain.
James Wilson (2013-14)
The first youth star to break out in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, Wilson scored a brace on his Premier League debut under Ryan Giggs in 2014, following David Moyes’ sacking.
He looked destined to lead the line for United in the years to come after that, but failed to make an impression on Louis van Gaal and couldn’t build any momentum out on loan, leaving the club in 2019 for Aberdeen.
Now 28, Wilson has found a home at Port Vale, whom he signed for from Salford in 2021, but is still dealing with regular injuries – a constant in his career.
Ben Pearson (2012-13)
Winning the prestigious award in Ferguson’s final season as manager, Pearson never actually made an appearance for United’s first-team and left the club in 2016 following a loan spell with Barnsley.
The midfielder has carved out a fine career in the EFL in the time since, spending five years with Preston before joining Bournemouth in 2021.
He fell out of favour following the Cherries’ return to the Premier League, however, and signed for Stoke last year, where he remains today.