The search for the next Rashford: How Nicky Butt is building the Academy

The Manchester United Academy is one of the best known in the world. It’s famous for bringing through the likes of Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and more recently Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, but in recent years the conveyor belt has been on something of a go-slow. Pogba and Rashford are the biggest names to come through the youth ranks in recent memory, and last season the U18’s caused concern for supporters with a less than acceptable finish in the league. But things look like changing, and one man alone is responsible for this.

Nicky Butt has done a fantastic job since being appointed to his new role at Old Trafford, and his recent steps to expand the global scouting region have seen players like Tahith Chong and Nishan Burkhart bought in to the Academy sides with fantastic effect. Both players look to be set for big things, and along with Angel Gomes and Indy Boonen, the foreign contingency of the youth teams look to be the likely source of the future of Manchester United. But where are the homegrown players? It’s all well and good having an exceptional global scouting system, but there were only two players in the Manchester Derby on Sunday (Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford) that were born anywhere near Manchester. Is more foreign talent really what United need?

Fret not, Butt – born in Gorton – is well aware of the issue. It’s another reason why his presence in the youth system has been so successful to date, he wants local talent in and will ensure he and his staff are always on the lookout. The Manchester Evening News quoted Butt as saying:

“No chance are we going away from trying to recruit locally as well.

“You just never know because each season brings up different possibilities.

“This year for instance in our U12’s, you’d normally take 14 players but it was such a good year we have brought in 22. That has never been done before. We have had to bring in another staff member to deal with that year.

“One year you might get eight great players from Europe that you have to bring in otherwise you might lose a superstar to somebody else.”

It shows he is well aware of the need for harvesting the local area for its talent, but balancing that out with the best from abroad too. It’s keeping the best interests of the football club in mind, as the money may not always be available to spend. Also United have this proud record of having an Academy graduate in every first team squad for almost a century. The crop has to be good enough to supplement that, to ensure that it isn’t just a token gesture done to preserve the history and serves a purpose of finding the next ‘Class of ’92’.

It isn’t a worry, not yet anyway. There is no cause for concern, it’s simply that Butt is using his head and the resources he has available to him to ensure the age groups are well stocked with a wealth of talent. What’s the point in having 22 average but home-grown players when you can have 22 players comprising of foreign lads and some local that have the ability to go on further? Not all will be in the same league as Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, for every one of those there will be a Daniel Nardiello and a John Curtis, but it’s clear to see that all bases are being covered. The fact that many of the U18’s are making the transition to Under 23 already is nothing but a strong testament to that. The future is very hopeful, especially with Butt steering the ship.


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