The 20 Man Utd academy graduates to appear in the Premier League last term

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A study into footballers currently playing in the Premier League and their academy clubs has found Manchester United come out on top with 20 of their graduates appearing in England’s top flight during the 2017-18 campaign.

The research, conducted by the Press Association, found that players who came through United’s ranks accounted for almost 10,000 more Premier League minutes than the next most productive club, Tottenham.

According to stats taken from the Premier League’s official website, those 20 players from United’s academy played 30,009 minutes in the competition last season.

Jose Mourinho dished out minutes to five of United’s own academy graduates, with Paul Pogba playing the most on 2,151.

We’ve taken a look at each of the 20 players, which ranges from Everton defender Michael Keane, who was on the pitch for 2,560 minutes throughout 2017-18, right through to Axel Tuanzebe, who came off the bench for one minute of action for United.

Michael Keane

Keane was part of Everton’s incredible spending spree under Ronald Koeman last summer, making the move from Burnley for £25million after he had burst onto the scene and earned four England caps.

However, it hasn’t gone completely to plan for the centre back, who made just one Premier League appearance for United before leaving for Burnley, as Everton limped their way through the 2017-18 campaign.

The defender lost his place in the England squad with even the likes of his replacement at Burnley, James Tarkowski, moving above him in the pecking order, despite Keane making 30 appearances in the Premier League.

Josh King

Progressing through the ranks at two clubs in his homeland of Norway, King turned down Chelsea, Sunderland and Ipswich to sign for United aged 16.

He made just two appearances for the first team, though, moving to Blackburn before joining Bournemouth upon their promotion to the Premier League.

King scored an impressive 16 goals during the 2016-17 campaign before moving into a deeper role for his 33 appearances last season and has since publicly criticised manager Eddie Howe, throwing his future at the club into doubt.

“I have three years left on my contract at Bournemouth, but in football you never know,” he told a Norwegian newspaper VG. “I just want to play in my best position. Why change something that worked so well, I don’t know, and maybe it’s been playing on my mind all season.”

Ryan Shawcross

Since helping Stoke to promotion to the Premier League during a loan spell in 2007, Shawcross has spent 10 years as a Potters player, featuring 27 times as they were relegated last term.

The defender, whose only England appearance infamously saw he come up against a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired Sweden, added 2,372 minutes to his tally in the Premier League during Stoke’s relegation campaign.

There were initially fears he could be seeking an exit from Stoke after they finished second-bottom of the top flight, but admitted “it would take a lot for me to leave this club” in May.

READ: Shawcross, Bale, Brass, Walters & the eternal comedy of own goals in football

Danny Simpson

Leaving United with just three Premier League appearances to his name, Simpson has now featured for four clubs in the top flight and has a winner’s medal to boot for his involvement in Leicester’s 2016 victory.

He has been a regular sat the King Power Stadium for the last three years, playing 2,313 minutes for the Foxes last term as they finished ninth under new boss Claude Puel.

Jonny Evans

Despite eight years between his first-team debut and his departure from the club, centre-back Evans managed 131 Premier League appearances for United before leaving for West Brom.

He was appointed captain at the Hawthorns last summer and played 2,273 minutes, but could do nothing to prevent the club finishing bottom of the division and dropping into the Championship.

After attracting interest from Manchester City and Arsenal over the last 12 months, it was Leicester who activated Evans’ £3.5million relegation release clause this summer.

Darren Fletcher

Evans had replaced Fletcher as West Brom captain last summer after the Scotland international departed for Stoke.

Early in the campaign, Fletcher became the eighth outfielder to play in 100 consecutive Premier League matches, having been an ever-present for the Baggies in the previous two campaigns.

He managed 2,222 minutes in 27 appearances this term, as Stoke were relegated to the Championship alongside his former club.

Paul Pogba

After famously leaving the club to join Juventus in a free transfer, Pogba returned to United in a world record £89.3million transfer in 2016.

His form and value have been the subject of much media discussion ever since, while Mourinho regularly shares his frustrations with the midfielder.

He was on the field for 2,151 minutes as United finished runners up in the 2017-18 Premier League season before going on to win the World Cup with France.

READ: A timeline of Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho’s turbulent relationship

Tom Cleverley

Cleverley had started his career at hometown club Bradford City but joined United just a month before his 12th birthday in 2000.

He made 55 Premier League appearances for the Old Trafford club before spells at Aston Villa and Everton ahead of his £8million switch to Watford last summer.

The midfielder featured 23 times last term – 1,905 minutes – as his side consolidated with a 14th placed finish in the top flight.

Jesse Lingard

Lingard in fact recorded 10 more appearances than Cleverley but his 33 matches amounted to just 1,823 minutes, completing the full 90 on just three occasions for United.

Only Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial scored more Premier League goals for Mourinho’s men last term as Lingard won over plenty of supporters.

He went on to score arguably England’s best goal of their excellent run in the 2018 World Cup, making six appearances for Gareth Southgate’s men in Russia.

READ: A celebration of Jesse Lingard the character, a young man enjoying his life

Marcus Rashford

Rashford recorded the highest number of appearances of all 20 players, missing just three of United’s Premier League games last season.

He was used as a substitute for 18 of those matches, while he was removed from the action in 10 of his 17 starts.

The 20-year-old already has an impressive 25 England caps to his name, but failed to make an impact at this summer’s World Cup as Southgate preferred to use Raheem Sterling alongside Harry Kane.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

The only United graduate to spend last season on loan away from Old Trafford in the Premier League was Fosu-Mensah, who spent the campaign at Crystal Palace.

A central defender primarily, although capable of playing on the right of defence, Fosu-Mensah has made 21 first-team appearances in all competitions for United – but equalled that in the Premier League alone with Palace last term.

“Last year, I was at Crystal Palace, I think I improved there and I’ve come back a better player,” he said. “I’ll keep working hard and see what happens.”

Robbie Brady

Since leaving United, Brady has earned a reputation as a dependable Premier League player with an impressive left foot – exhibited not long after joining Burnley from Norwich for £13million, when he netted a free-kick against Chelsea on his full debut.

Eighteen months since the move, Brady didn’t feature as regularly as hoped last season, playing just 1,279 minutes in 15 appearances due to a serious injury.

In his absence, the club finished in their highest league position in 44 years, qualifying for the Europa League in the process.

Danny Welbeck

Four years after joining Arsenal from United, Welbeck made his highest number of Premier League appearances for the Gunners last season, though he played just 1,185 minutes in his 28 matches.

A move away from the Emirates this summer was mooted, with Everton and Newcastle reportedly interested.

Phil Bardsley

Bardsley spent seven years at Sunderland after leaving Old Trafford in 2007, and he signed a contract extension at Stoke after three years at the club last summer, only to join Burnley less than two months later.

He spent the majority of last season on the bench at Turf Moor, making 13 appearances, all of which came consecutively in the middle of the season.

The right-back is probably best known off the field, however, for his off-field antics, famously being caught on camera knocking out Wayne Rooney in a kitchen as the pair sparred.

Matty James

“I was in so much pain I’ll remember it for the rest of my life,” James said, after he went 865 days without an appearance following three surgeries on his knee as well as a kidney infection.

After spending the second half of last season on loan at Barnsley, James returned to make 13 appearances for Leicester last term, following the heartbreak of not playing a single minute of the title-winning campaign two years previous.

“When I lifted the Premier League trophy, I was in tears,” he recalled to The Guardian last year. “I was crying my eyes out, purely because I had no part to play in it whatsoever. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster going all the way down and the club was going in the opposite direction.”

Scott McTominay

Having been with United since 2000, McTominay broke into the first team this season, signing a new three-year contract during the campaign.

Mourinho is a huge admirer of the Scot, and announced a surprise ‘Manager’s Player of the Year’ award for the 21-year-old after the club’s annual awards evening, branding it “unacceptable” that McTominay was set to go home empty handed.

“He is the one who has done everything,” Mourinho said. “He started the season in the academy and ended it playing big games in the Premier League. I thought this kid cannot go home without an award.”

Danny Drinkwater

Another former United youngster who lifted the Premier League trophy with Leicester in 2016, Drinkwater has struggled to nail down a first-team place since joining Chelsea last summer.

The midfielder, who has three England caps to his name, joined the Foxes in 2011 having not made an appearance for the Red Devils, helping them to promotion from the Championship two years before their title win.

But he featured just 12 times for Chelsea in last season’s Premier League, amassing 522 minutes on the pitch under Antonio Conte.

Craig Cathcart

Injuries continue to plague Northern Ireland international Cathcart, who was rewarded for playing a key part in Watford’s promotion to the Premier League with a four-year contract in 2015.

He made 35 appearances in their first season back in the top flight, but has managed just 22 since, finding himself on the field for just 495 minutes of the 2017-18 campaign.

Also opening up on the struggles of lengthy periods on the sidelines, Cathcart said upon his return in April: “It was a difficult period for me over the last six to nine months. Sometimes you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but as soon as you get back in training with the boys you start feeling better every day.”

Tom Heaton

It was a very likely scenario that if it weren’t for a shoulder injury early last season, Heaton would have been one of three goalkeepers in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the World Cup – and not team-mate Nick Pope.

But Heaton managed just three full matches before dislocating the joint in a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace, only returning amongst the substitutes in April.

Instead, the 32-year-old, who never made a first-team appearance at Old Trafford, had to settle for a place on the stand-by list, although has had his path opened up to a place in Burnley’s starting XI after Pope suffered the same injury during the first leg of their Europa League qualifier at Aberdeen.

Axel Tuanzebe

Tuanzebe had the briefest of involvements in United’s season, coming on as a substitute in the last minute of stoppage time in their 2-0 win at Everton on New Year’s Day.

The young defender soon joined Aston Villa on loan for the remainder of the campaign, featuring five times in the Championship.


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