Manchester United may have gone from Premier League champions and among the best teams in Europe to fallen giants over the course of the 2010s, but some things never change. Youth always gets a chance.
The club recently hit a milestone of 4, 000 straight games featuring an academy graduate, a run that stretches back to 1937, as they’ve continued to give their homegrown stars opportunities over the last 10 years.
Whether it’s David Moyes or Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Red Devils keep on turning to their production line. Here are the 41 academy graduates to make their United debut in the 2010s.
Spoken about as the undisputed greatest talent of that generation, some youth coaches expected Morrison to hit the same heights as the likes of Paul Pogba.
With numerous off-field issues and controversy following him around, it never quite happened for the Wythenshawe-born midfielder since his senior debut, a 3-2 League Cup win over Wolves in October 2010.
He only ever made three appearances for his boyhood club, none in the Premier League, and has subsequently had a fascinating nomadic career with a number of left-field stops including West Ham, QPR, Lazio, Atlas and Östersund before a return to these shores with Sheffield United.
But he’s on the periphery for Chris Wilder’s Blades, yet to be given a league start.
A serious knee injury perhaps stunted the left back’s early career, with his debut coming in a 3-0 victory over old rivals Leeds United in the League Cup in September 2011.
Eight years on, he’s made fewer than 100 league appearances following spells at Standard Liege, Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Barnsley. At the age of 27, he’s now finally getting regular first-team football at League Two Swindon Town.
Cole’s United career amounted to 14 minutes as they saw out the 3-0 victory over Leeds.
He subsequently scored a hat-trick against Liverpool in the semi-final of the 2013 Under-21 Premier League, and a brace in the final against Spurs, but he never scaled the same heights in his senior career. He’s currently without a club after being released by Tranmere in 2019.
First appearing as a substitute in the win over Leeds, Pogba fulfilled his early promise as a four-time Serie A champion with Juventus and a World Cup winner with France.
He only made a total of seven appearances for United before being bought by the Italian giants in January 2014 and established himself as one of the best midfielders in world football, breaking the transfer record with his £89million return to the club in 2016.
But there’s a lingering sense that the club haven’t seen the best of him, at least consistently, and he continues to be linked with a move away from Old Trafford for a second time.
The centre-half’s senior career began coming off the bench for the final 20 minutes of a routine 3-0 win over fourth-tier Aldershot in the fourth round of the League Cup in October 2011. Only four further appearances would follow before his move to Burnley in 2015.
He’s since made over 150 Premier League appearances for Burnley and Everton and earned 10 England caps.
Forever loaned away, the other Keane twin only made a total of three appearances for Manchester United after first making his debut as a late substitute for Rafael in a 3-2 defeat to Blackburn in December 2011.
Regularly impressive for Solskjaer’s Reserves, he never made much of an impact for the first team with a horror knee ligament injury sidelining him a year after his debut.
He hasn’t hit the same heights as Michael, he’s now looking to get promoted from League One with Paul Lambert’s Ipswich.
His debut came in a heavily-rotated XI that beat Newcastle United 2-1 in the League Cup in September 2012. A second appearance followed two years later (the infamous 4-0 defeat to MK Dons) and that was his Red Devils career, which came to an end with an unsuccessful move to Sheffield Wednesday in 2015.
He’s now with second-tier Dutch side MVV Maastricht.
Birkenhead-born defender Wootton made his debut in Gary Neville’s testimonial back in 2011, with his first official game coming a year later alongside Vermijl against Newcastle.
He never really broke through, three underwhelming years at Leeds followed, and he’s now at League Two side Plymouth Argyle.
Brady’s enjoyed a decent career flitting between the top two divisions with Hull, Norwich and Burnley.
Before that, things started off as a late substitute for Alexander Buttner in the League Cup win over Newcastle, his only United appearance.
A bright light in the darkness of the Moyes era, Januzaj’s debut came in the Community Shield, a win over Wigan.
On his first Premier League start, he memorably scored both goals as United beat Sunderland 2-1, but he’s not quite hit the heights some expected of him.
Still, he’s now doing well in an exciting young Real Sociedad team.
October 2013 – After falling behind against Sunderland, Adnan Januzaj scores a brace to rescue a point. United fans feel their saviour has arrived. A new superstar arrives on the scene and he even has the same birthday as Cristiano Ronaldo. pic.twitter.com/XyvSGea0MT
— UnitedBanterEra (@UnitedBanterEra) June 16, 2019
There can’t be many – any? – players in Manchester United’s history with a worse record than Janko, who was hooked at half-time of a 4-0 defeat to MK Dons, his only appearance.
A strange career has since seen him on the periphery at Celtic, spend a year at Saint-Etienne and then move to Porto, for whom he is yet to play for, instead having a forgettable loan spell at Nottingham Forest and now another loan at Young Boys.
Like Janko, his only appearance for United came in the defeat to MK Dons. He played all 90 minutes at least.
Not to be confused with the Reece James at Chelsea, the United James also played for Wigan but for three seasons as opposed to the one season on loan the Chelsea James spent at the DW Stadium.
The James we’re discussing here left Wigan for Sunderland in 2018 and is now at Doncaster.
MK Dons 4-0 Manchester United. (2014) pic.twitter.com/rdQi9tkeId
— StrikerSanchez (@minemsam) July 28, 2016
Returning to the club after loans at Carlisle and Yeovil, Tom Lawrence eventually made his first-team debut during his compatriot Ryan Giggs’ spell as manager and has since played under him for the Wales national team.
He actually replaced Giggs on his debut, but it was his only United appearance. A few weeks later he was sold to newly-promoted Leicester but didn’t do a great deal with the Foxes before establishing himself as a Derby regular.
Prolific for the reserves and in the UEFA Youth League, it was anticipated that Wilson would be one of the major success stories of that generation, especially when he marked his senior debut with two goals, playing 60 minutes as Giggs led them to a 3-1 win over Hull.
He’d only score two more goals in 19 further appearances under Van Gaal. Injuries and loans away hampered him and he was released in the summer of 2019 before being picked up by Aberdeen.
It took time for Lingard to eventually get his break, sitting as an unused substitute under Ferguson and Moyes and going out on loan at Leicester, Birmingham and Brighton before eventually getting his full debut in Van Gaal’s first competitive match as manager, a 2-1 defeat to Swansea in the opening fixture of the 2014-15 season.
Five years later he’s a regular for club and country.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 15, 2018
Blackett also started in Van Gaal’s first Premier League game, playing in the centre of defence. He’d go on to feature 11 more times that campaign but was loaned to Celtic for the second of Van Gaal’s two seasons at the club before being sold to Reading in 2016.
He’s since made over 100 appearances with the Royals, into his fourth season at the Madejski.
The Northern Ireland international’s name will be inextricably linked to the Van Gaal era. Making his debut in defence in a 2-1 victory over West Ham in 2014, he made 28 appearances under the Dutchman before being sold to Moyes’ Everton in the summer of 2016.
After two years on Wearside – in which the Black Cats suffered back-to-back relegations – he joined Middlesbrough.
Appearances at six different levels of England’s youth set-ups between 2008 and 2013, Thorpe’s club career never really took off after his injury-time cameo against West Ham in 2014 – his only senior United appearance.
Released in 2014, spells at Rotherham, Bradford and Bolton followed. He’s still only 26 but hasn’t played at a professional level since representing Teddy Sheringham’s ATK in the Indian Super League in 2017-18.
A theme emerges: a debut given by Van Gaal before being let go by Jose Mourinho ahead of a career in the Football League.
After appearing for the first time off the bench in November 2014, Borthwick-Jackson made a further 13 appearances in all competitions. He’s still on United’s books but has perennially been out on loan in the lower leagues – Wolves, Leeds, Scunthorpe and now Tranmere.
Born in Belgium to Brazilian parents – his father played for several Belgian Pro League clubs – Pereira has been on United’s books since he was 15, following a move from PSV.
Handed his debut by Van Gaal in March 2015, a late substitute in a 3-0 win over Spurs, he’s had to bide his time – going out on loan to Granada and Valencia – but he’s now a regular in midfield under Solskjaer.
The left-back was a second-half substitute in a 3-0 win over Shrewsbury in the fifth round of the FA Cup in February 2016. One further Europa League appearance followed before he joined Bradford in 2018.
Another defender to be given a shot by Van Gaal, Love came off the bench in a 2-1 defeat to Sunderland in February 2016 before making his one and only start five days later in another 2-1 loss, to FC Midtjylland in the Europa League.
He went to Sunderland with McNair that summer and was released by the Black Cats after three years. He’s now at Shrewsbury.
The versatile Netherlands international – who can play in the backline or as a defensive midfielder – looked the best of the bunch as he emerged in 2015-16 season, which ended with Van Gaal departing and United lifting the FA Cup.
He’s still with the club but hasn’t really kicked on, and a loan move to relegation-battling Fulham last season didn’t do his development a great deal of good.
Rashford was given his chance amid an injury crisis and has never looked back since his sudden, explosive emergence.
He scored a brace against Midtjylland in the Europa League, going on to score twice on his Premier League debut against Arsenal. And goals would come on his League Cup, Champions League and full England debuts, too.
United might be struggling this season, but Rashford has already matched his best-ever goalscoring tallies before Christmas in 2019-20 – 10 Premier League goals and 13 in all competitions.
The Preston-born midfielder was an injury-time substitute in that Rashford game, the 3-2 win over Arsenal. His only appearance for United, he’s now plying his trade in League One with Bolton.
At Manchester United since the age of eight, the centre-half first appeared as a second-half substitute in a 4–0 FA Cup victory over Wigan in January 2017.
Few appearances for his boyhood club have followed, but he made a real step forward to help Aston Villa get promoted last season and has since returned to become a part of Solskjaer’s plans, making more Premier League appearances than in any previous year.
Mourinho’s stock answer to accusations he doesn’t bed in youth, the Portuguese gave McTominay his debut in May 2017 as a substitute against Arsenal.
Some scoffed when Mourinho overcompensated a little to award him his ‘Manager’s Player Of The Year’ award in 2018, but he’s genuinely developing into a tidy midfielder and a vital cog in Solskjaer’s best team.
An alumnus of local youth side Fletcher Moss Rangers alongside Borthwick-Jackson and Rashford, Mitchell has a reputation as a promising young full-back.
So far, he’s only made one appearance, playing all 90 minutes of a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in the final match of the 2016-17 season, and is now on his second loan spell with Hearts.
Coming on as a late substitute in that win over Palace at the age of just 16, Gomes became the club’s youngest debutant since the legendary Duncan Edwards over 60 years ago, as well as the first player born in the 2000s to feature in the Premier League.
Two and a half years later, only three further league appearances have followed.
That Palace dead rubber also gave Portuguese Under-21 international Pereira his United debut. Two domestic cup appearances have followed, as have loans to Vitória de Setubal and Kortrijk, following earlier loans to Rochdale and Belenenses.
He’s currently playing alongside his former youth team graduate Mitchell on loan at Hearts.
United’s 100th different goalscorer in the Premier League, Harrop made his senior debut against Palace and scored the opener, but he rejected a new deal with the club in favour of regular minutes elsewhere.
He’s been with Alex Neil’s play-off-chasing Preston since 2017.
Coming up through the Feyenoord academy, Chong joined United as a 15-year-old in 2016. The winger was handed his debut by Solskjaer as a substitute in a 2–0 FA Cup victory against Reading in January 2019 and has since made 10 appearances under the Norwegian.
Featuring prominently in United’s 2018 pre-season tour but never in a competitive game by Mourinho, highly-rated midfielder Garner became the first of many academy graduates to be handed their debut by Solskjaer, an injury-time substitute in a 3-1 win over Palace in February 2019.
A regular in the Europa League campaign this season with four appearances in the group stage.
The most-hyped player of the latest generation of academy players, Greenwood’s first appearance in a United shirt came as a late substitute in the club’s dramatic 3-1 victory over PSG in the Champions League. An 87th-minute substitute, he was on the pitch when Rashford’s injury-time penalty sparked wild scenes of celebration.
A deadly finisher, Greenwood has now scored seven goals in 23 senior appearances, most of which have been off the bench.
“You see a talented boy there and he’s got every opportunity to make it as a Man United player,” Solskjaer has said.
“Of course it’s also going to be about luck, staying clear of injuries, being professional and I’m sure he’s going to grab his chance because everything is there for him.
“His movement, cleverness, he’s going to be a very good player.”
A bit special, he’s taken his opportunities to catch the eye, emerging in the 2019-20 season. United’s next long-term left-back?
Ethan Laird – 2019
Laird was one of nine academy graduates – and three full debutants, with three more from the bench – as Solskjaer named an inexperienced XI in a long trip to Kazakhstan in November 2019.
He featured in defence as the youthful side lost 2-1 in the Europa League fixture against FC Astana.
Di’Shon Bernard – 2019
It wasn’t a debut to remember for Bernard as he scored an own-goal in the Astana defeat.
Dylan Levitt – 2019
Wales Under-21 star Levitt featured in midfield against Astana.
D’Mani Bughail-Mellor – 2019
The teenage forward scored five goals in 20 outings (13 from the bench) for Kieran McKenna’s Premier League North winners last season, but he couldn’t find the back of the net on his debut against Astana in a 30-minute second-half cameo.
Largie Ramazani – 2019
An 84th-minute sub against Astana, wide attacker Ramazani didn’t get much of a chance to show what he can do.
Ethan Galbraith – 2019
An 89th-minute sub in that Astana defeat, 18-year-old midfielder Ethan Galbraith became the 10th academy graduate to be given their debut by Solskjaer. That’s more than any other manager since Ferguson.