The 14 Man Utd academy graduates playing elsewhere in major leagues

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Adnan Januzaj for Real Sociedad against Barcelona in their La Liga match at Camp Nou, August 2021

The Manchester United academy is one of the biggest and best in world football, with countless world-class players having come through its ranks.

Many go on to become United first-team stars but for others, it’s not possible to break through into the senior side, and their hopes of playing senior football lie elsewhere.

We’ve taken a look at the 14 United academy graduates that are currently playing in one of Europe’s top six leagues – the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and the Primeira Liga.

Michael Keane

One of several Premier League players on the list, Keane was named Reserves Player of the Year at Old Trafford in 2012 but made just five first-team appearances for United.

The centre-back moved to Burnley in 2014 before being snapped up by Everton three years later and has now made just under 200 Premier League appearances.

Dwight McNeil

Another United academy player who found a home at Burnley, McNeil was released by the Red Devils at the end of the 2013-14 season.

“It made me focused on becoming a professional footballer,” McNeill told Sky Sports in 2021. “Hopefully looking back on it, I’ve proved some people wrong.

“When I look back at how hard it was to become the player I am today, I do surprise myself sometimes, but I have an inner belief. The people around me believe in me which also helps.”

He spent four years in Burnley’s academy before making his senior debut in May 2018, and he has been a first-team regular ever since.

The 22-year-old winger has a long career ahead of him and has been linked with moves to Everton, Aston Villa and Manchester City.

Jack Harrison

Harrison has had an interesting career path. Now at Leeds, he had spells with Liverpool and United before deciding to move to America with his family.

The winger then played high school football and was the number one pick in the 2016 MLS draft, going to New York City.

From there it was a return to Manchester, but this time he headed to Manchester City. He never appeared for City and after a successful three-year loan spell with Leeds, he is now permanently at the Yorkshire club.

Adnan Januzaj

After bursting onto the scene it never quite worked out for the Belgian at Old Trafford. He now struts his stuff at La Liga side Real Sociedad.

READ: Adnan Januzaj showed he can still be a magician with his audacious attempt

Josh King

King is right in the middle of his one-man revenge tour, scoring against every team he’s ever played for.

The Norway international was a promising youth prospect at United but struggled to break into the first team, going on loan to four different sides before leaving for Blackburn Rovers in 2013.

After six years at Bournemouth, he had an unsuccessful stint at Everton and then joined newly-promoted Watford on a free transfer in 2021.

Naturally, when he turned up at Goodison Park with the Hornets in October 2021 he bagged four goals. Oh, and he scored against United too.

Jonny Evans

Evans was a first-team regular at Old Trafford until he was deemed surplus to requirements by Louis van Gaal in 2015.

The Northern Ireland international moved to West Brom and then joined Leicester City three years later, helping the Foxes win the 2021 FA Cup.

Angel Gomes

When Gomes left in 2020 in search of regular first-team football it was a big disappointment to many United fans.

The attacking midfielder was a highly rated youth player at Old Trafford but left for Lille, who offered a clearer and better development plan.

He was loaned to Portuguese side Boavista in 2020-21 and registered six goals and six assists in 32 appearances in all competitions.

With a season of men’s football behind him, the 21-year-old is now back in France and breaking through at Lille.

Danny Welbeck

Picked up from the famous Fletcher Moss Rangers youth team, Welbeck joined the United academy at an early age but was another victim of the Van Gaal era when he left for Arsenal in 2014.

The striker has been plagued by a series of injury problems in recent years and currently finds himself on Brighton’s treatment table.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Fosu-Mensah made his debut under Van Gaal but was another Untied academy player who couldn’t quite establish himself as a first-team regular.

After loans with Crystal Palace and Fulham, he made several appearances as a utility player for United, able to play in defensive midfield and as a full-back.

The 23-year-old joined Bayer Leverkusen in January 2021 but suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury on his sixth Bundesliga appearance. 

Craig Cathcart

Despite winning the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Season award in 2006-07. Cathcart never made a first-team appearance for United.

The defender left for Blackpool in 2010 and scored against United during a Premier League match in January 2011. He then left for Watford in 2014 and recently helped the Hornets to a historic 4-1 win over his former side.

Pierluigi Gollini

Gollini recently returned to the Premier League with Tottenham on a season-long loan deal and is their back-up goalkeeper behind Hugo Lloris.

There’s quite a lot to unpack here. He spent two years in the United youth system after joining from Fiorentina but described it as a “Military institution with absurd rules.”

But forget football for a second because in 2018 he released a rap single. Seriously.

Gollorious (his stage name and presumably an awful mix of glorious and his surname) came out with the absolute certified classic “Rapper with gloves.”

It’s not quite John Barnes and World In Motion but he does donate all the money to charity. That’s nice.

Phil Bardsley

Yes, he’s still playing football and yes, he’s still at Burnley

Nishan Burkart

Having left the United academy in 2019, Burkart joined Bundesliga side SC Freiburg and impressed for their reserves before making his senior debut in April 2021.

Kenji Gorre

The son of former player and manager Dean Gorre, he switched from Manchester City to United in 2002 but was released in 2013 and finished his footballing education at Swansea.

Gorre then found a home in Portugal and is now playing for Boavista, his third club in the country since 2018.

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