Cristiano Ronaldo playing for Manchester United in 2003

Where are they now? The 10 youngest players Ferguson gave Premier League debuts at Man Utd

Sir Alex Ferguson is undoubtedly one of the finest managers the Premier League has ever seen and during his time at Manchester United, he handed debuts to plenty of youngsters.

The Red Devils have quite the reputation for developing young players, particularly around the nineties when their famous Class of ’92 came through the ranks.

We’ve looked back at the 10 youngest players Ferguson handed Premier League debuts to and we’ve checked out what they are up to these days.

Federico Macheda

Making his debut at just 17 years and seven months old, the Italian forward holds the title of the youngest-ever player Ferguson handed a Premier League debut to.

From the off, Macheda was tipped for the very top. He scored a dramatic last-minute winner against Aston Villa on his league debut with a fine turn and finish past the experienced Brad Friedel.

Unfortunately, the Italian striker never managed to make it at Old Trafford as he was released on the back of several disappointing loan spells. Now 32 years old, he is currently playing for Ankaragucu in Turkey.

Nicky Butt

Butt was handed his Premier League debut by Ferguson back in 1992 as a fresh-faced 17-year-old. The midfielder spent 12 years of his professional career at Old Trafford and won 15 trophies along the way.

After hanging up his boots in 2011, Butt promptly pursued a career in coaching. He spent a further nine years of his career at Old Trafford in various roles before departing once again in March 2021.

Butt is now a co-owner of Salford City along with his former teammates Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Gary and Phil Neville. These days, Butt works as the club’s chief executive officer.

Danny Welbeck

The England international made his debut as a 17-year-old and spent six years with the first team before joining Arsenal in the summer of 2014 for £16million.

“He’s still a boy,” Ferguson told reporters back in 2008. “He’s no doubt a Manchester United player, but he’s only young. He needs time, but he’s got a lot of marvellous things about him. He’s a local boy, which is nice too.”

While Welbeck has never been the most prolific of forwards, he has enjoyed a long and successful career in the Premier League. He’s still going strong at 32, playing for high-flyers Brighton.

Kieran Richardson

Richardson was highly thought of as a teenager as Ferguson showed his faith in him from a young age by handing him his league debut as an 18-year-old.

Despite making 81 appearances for the club, he never quite managed to establish himself as a first-team regular under Fergie. He spent the bulk of his career with Sunderland and after hanging up his boots in 2017 he’s since become a luxury watch dealer.

Kieran Richardson during the FA Youth Cup match between Manchester United and Hartlepool United at Old Trafford, Manchester, November 2001.

READ: The 7 Man Utd kids Fergie tipped for stardom in 2001 & how they fared


The Brazilian full-back joined United in 2008 along with his twin brother Fabio, although it was Rafael who was first given a chance by Ferguson.

On the opening game of the 2008-09 season, Rafael was handed his Premier League debut in a 1-1 draw with Newcastle at Old Trafford. The Brazilian became a real cult hero during his time in Manchester as he collected eight trophies along the way.

He also enjoyed a successful spell with Lyon and spent one season with Turkish outfit Istanbul Basaksehir in his post-United career. Now 33, the defender is playing out his final days back in Brazil with Botafogo.

Nick Powell

After garnering plenty of hype in League Two with Crewe Alexandra, Powell became one of Ferguson’s last-ever signings as United boss when he splashed a reported £6million on the youngster.

Despite making his Premier League debut at 18, his career in the top flight was short-lived. The midfielder soon found himself in the Championship, where he would go on to spend the majority of his career.

After spending four years with Stoke City the midfielder joined League Two outfit Stockport County this summer in a somewhat surprising move on a free transfer. The move to Old Trafford probably came too soon in his career.

Manchester United's Nick Powell during their Premier League victory over Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford, Manchester, September 2012.

READ: Remembering Nick Powell’s right man, wrong time spell at Man Utd

Jonathan Spector

United States international Spector was picked up by United as a youngster after impressing for the United States U17s. The midfielder made eight appearances for United during his debut season and even won the club’s Young Player of the Year award in 2004–05.

After impressing while out on loan for Charlton Athletic, West Ham snapped the midfielder up for a reported £500,000 in 2006. After his spell with the Hammers, he played for Birmingham, Orlando City and Hibernian before announcing his retirement in 2019.

The former United midfielder still works in football today and is currently working as the Head of International Recruitment and Development at Atlanta United FC.

Cristiano Ronaldo

It’s fair to say he’s done alright for himself since making his Premier League debut at 18 years old.

Wes Brown

The versatile defender was never the flashiest of players at Old Trafford, but he could always be relied upon. Ferguson clearly trusted Brown from a young age as he handed the defender his Premier League debut at 18.

Brown went on to make 362 appearances for the club and won 13 trophies along the way, including five Premier League titles and two Champions League triumphs.

Brown has kept a fairly low profile since hanging up his boots in 2018. He briefly worked with the Blackburn Rovers academy and has dabbled into punditry. Earlier this year, the Daily Mail reported that Brown had to declare bankruptcy after a series of bad investments.

Giuseppe Rossi

Rossi scored on his Premier League debut for the Red Devils after coming on as a second-half substitute for Ruud van Nistelrooy. However, despite his bright start, Rossi never quite made the grade at Old Trafford.

After leaving United in 2007, Rossi joined Villarreal where he went on to spend the peak years of his career, scoring 82 goals in 192 matches. He finally called it quits on his footballing career this summer following a short spell with SPAL.

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