Man Utd’s 26 youth players signed over past four seasons and how they’ve fared
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While Manchester United have spent big money on their first team in recent seasons, there has been plenty of investment in the academy too.
As the club look to put together a long-term plan that will see them challenging for the Premier League title again, many of the world’s best youngsters have been recruited by Old Trafford chiefs.
Some have been pinched from local rivals Manchester City, while others have had an education from the renowned academies of Barcelona and Ajax.
With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer not afraid to give opportunities to those coming through the ranks, here’s a look at the 26 youth players that United have signed in the last four seasons and how their first-team chances are shaping up.
Centre-back Kambwala was signed from Sochaux on deadline day last summer and has quickly shown why he is so highly rated.
Standing at 6ft 3in tall, he is a commanding presence at the heart of defence with dominating strength but also pace and skill on the ball too.
Despite being just 16 years old, Kambwala has already captained France’s Under-17s and looks like a star in the making.
When McNeill rejected a contract offer at Manchester City last summer, United pounced to sign a player who was previously at the club as a schoolboy.
It has proved a fantastic decision as the young striker has found prolific form in the Under-18 Premier League, netting 16 goals in 16 appearances.
“I love it here,” McNeill said earlier this year. “It’s amazing. I’m a United fan, I love the club through and through and I’ve settled in really well.”
Having appeared as a substitute in Premier League 2 in February, the 17-year-old is expected to complete the transition to Under-23s football next season.
There’s a reason why Hugill had Arsenal and Tottenham chasing him last summer before he decided to swap Sunderland for Manchester United.
The striker only turned 17 six months ago, but he is already a star for the Under-23s side, scoring 10 goals in 14 appearances in Premier League 2 this season.
A four-goal haul in a 6-3 win over Liverpool has been his standout performance, which led to Solskjaer name-checking him in a press conference a few days later.
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A prospect in Barcelona’s La Masia academy since the age of seven, Jurado first made headlines in 2013 when he scored within five seconds of kick-off for Barca’s Under-10s – still the fastest goal ever recorded at youth level.
The right-back made the move to Manchester last summer and has made 13 appearances for the Under-18s this season despite not turning 17 until this month.
Jurado appeared for the Under-23s for the first time last weekend and is expected to continue progressing at a rapid rate.
On the opposite side of defence and from the other side of El Clasico, left-back Alvaro Fernandez joined United last summer after turning down a contract offer at Real Madrid.
A year older than Jurado, Fernandez initially featured for the Under-18s but was quickly promoted to the Under-23s and has made 16 appearances in Premier League, registering five assists.
The 18-year-old says that he bases his game on Marcelo.
Standing at nearly two-metres tall, Czech goalkeeper Vitek had trials at Southampton and Manchester United last season before deciding on a move to the Red Devils from Sigma Olomouc.
Vitek, who made his debut for Olomouc’s Under-19 side at just 14 years old, is now 17 and has made six appearances in the Under-18 Premier League this season. He has kept two clean sheets.
Born just a week after Joe Hugill, Pye followed his Sunderland academy colleague to Manchester last summer.
Pye is a left-back who has made 10 appearances in the Under-18 Premier League this season and was called up to an England Under-18s training camp for the first time in November.
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Solskjaer was seen as a key figure in securing a deal for fellow Norwegian Hansen-Aaroen last summer amid interest from Liverpool and Everton.
At the age of 15, Hansen-Aaroen had already featured for Tromso’s first team in the Norwegian second tier before United snapped him up.
The midfielder made nine appearances for the Red Devils’ Under-18s at the start of this season before not featuring for three months, and rumours emerged that he was back in his homeland training with Tromso.
However, this was denied by the Norwegian club and the 16-year-old has now returned to Manchester and scored against Stoke City last weekend.
Described as “the jewel of the Atletico [Madrid] academy” by Spanish newspaper Marca, Garnacho made the switch to United last summer.
It was not a title without merit, as the tricky winger was top scorer at Under-16 level in Spain last season.
16-year-old Garnacho has carried on his hot streak in England and has six goals in 12 appearances in the Under-18 Premier League this year, including a hat-trick against Stoke last weekend.
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United signed Mejbri from Monaco in the summer of 2019 in a deal reportedly worth up to £8.5m.
Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal all failed in bids to secure the highly-rated teenager’s signature before he decided on a move to Old Trafford.
Mejbri is a creative midfielder, while club legend Nicky Butt has compared his leadership skills to those of Roy Keane and David Beckham.
Still only 18, the Frenchman has three goals and six assists in Premier League 2 this season, and featured in the EFL Trophy against Salford City in September.
A first team appearance is expected to not to be far away.
There were huge hopes for Mejia when he joined in the summer of 2019, with the Spanish striker having scored more than 60 goals for Real Zaragoza’s youth team the previous season.
However, his time at United so far has been blighted by injuries.
He was stretched off on his debut, and after recovering to start the current campaign in the Under-18s he scored once in three games before suffering an ankle injury against Manchester City.
The 18-year-old underwent surgery in February and it is hoped he will finally be able to kick on next season.
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Dutchman Hardley was one of the more low-key arrivals in the summer of 2019 when he signed from NEC Brada, but he is quietly developing into an exciting prospect.
Naturally a centre-back, the 18-year-old is also able to play at left-back and has even stepped up into midfield on occasions.
Hardley has made 16 appearances in the Under-18 Premier League this season, captaining United five times, and made his Under-23s debut against Arsenal in February.
Poached from Ajax’s academy in 2019, Hoogewerf stood out in United’s run to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals last year.
This season, the 18-year-old has been transformed by the club’s coaches from a centre forward to a tricky playmaker, and the switch has proven very successful.
The Dutchman has five goals and eight assists in 14 appearances in the Under-18 Premier League and has also appeared for the Under-23s on six occasions.
“I want to [make my] debut as quickly as possible," Hoogewerf told Voetbal International last year. "That is why I went there. Manchester United came up with a good plan and the intention to make me debut at an early age."
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Born in Milan, goalkeeper Guadagno represents Sweden at international level and arrived from IF Brommapojkarna in 2019.
The 18-year signed a professional deal at United alongside Hoogewerf in March last year.
So far this season, Guadagno has made seven appearances in the Under-18 Premier League and kept clean sheets against Leeds United and Everton.
Emeran was another player who chose to sign for the Red Devils over a number of top European clubs.
“Manchester [United] has been more convincing than PSG and Barcelona,” he told Le Parisien. The choice was made with my family, and accompanied by my lawyer.”
Having arrived from Amiens in January 2019, Emeran found it hard to make an impact in his first year at the club and also struggled with injuries.
However, the 18-year-old, who plays on the left of a front three and admires Leroy Sane, has hit form this season. He has five goals and six assists in 15 Under-18 Premier League appearances.
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After arriving from Lech Poznan for around £400k in the summer of 2018, Polish defender Bejger became a regular for United’s Under-18s in 2019/20 and played every game during their run to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals.
He progressed to become part of the Under-23 squad this season, but in January chose to move back to his homeland and sign for Slask Wroclaw in the Ekstraklasa, citing a desire to play senior football.
“I want to gain experience in senior football and constantly improve my skills,” the 19-year-old said after the move. “The club presented me with an interesting development plan, so I am convinced that I have made the right decision and will be making regular progress in Wroclaw.”
There will always be focus on the development of Harvey Neville, given that dad Phil and Uncle Gary made nearly 1000 appearances for United between them.
18-year-old Harvey previously spent time in Manchester City’s academy before joining Valencia’s youth set-up when his father was a coach at the Spanish club.
He linked up with United in 2018 and has made nine appearances as a right-back in Premier League 2 this season.
While Phil and Gary represented England, Harvey has represented the Republic of Ireland at Under-19 level, qualifying through his mother Julie’s family.
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Devine made the switch from Manchester City to United in the summer of 2018, and has become a key part of the Under-23 side.
The 19-year-old has 12 appearances in Premier League 2 this season as well as two in the EFL Trophy.
While he signed for the club as a left-back, Devine has been used as a centre-back for the Under-23s on several occasions this season.
Mastny is a fast-developing Czech goalkeeper who signed for United from Vysocina Jihlava in 2018.
The 19-year-old was first choice between the sticks for the Under-18 side last season, and started 2020/21 as number one in the Under-23s – making six appearances in Premier League 2.
Mastny was a surprise addition to United’s Champions League squad for their game against Paris Saint-Germain earlier this season, when he was drafted in as a homegrown player.
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Described as a “skilful right-winger” who “provides bundles of energy”, United signed Stanley from Birmingham City in 2018.
Despite training with the first team ahead of a Europa League fixture last year, the 19-year-old has not kicked on in the academy as many might have hoped.
He made 15 appearances in the Under-18 Premier League this season, before joining Atlanta United’s reserve side on loan earlier this month ahead of the start of the USL campaign.
Stanley’s current United deal runs out this summer and it seems unlikely that he will be offered a new one.
Czech goalkeeper Kovar has been on an upward trajectory ever since he signed from FC Slovacko in 2018.
He helped United Under-18s win the Premier League North title in his first season, while in 2019/20 he made 15 appearances for the Under-23s and was named on the first-team bench for a Europa League game against Astana.
After being one of the Under-23s’ best performers, Kovar was given a taste of senior football on loan at Swindon Town in the first half of the current campaign.
However, the 20-year-old struggled at the County Ground, making 20 appearances and keeping just one clean sheet before being recalled by United in January.
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Galbraith, signed from Linfield in 2017, is currently the captain of United’s Under-23 side but is yet to complete the step up to the first team after making his debut against Astana in the Europa League last season.
Nonetheless, the 19-year-old remains highly rated and already has two full international caps for Northern Ireland.
He is a calm and confident midfielder best suited to playing just in front of the defence, while he has filled in at centre-back this season.
A loan move may be the best option next season to help Galbraith’s career develop.
Bernard also made his senior United debut against Astana in November 2019, however he scored an own goal in a 2-1 defeat for United.
The centre-back earned his first team bow after impressing for the Under-18s and Under-23s following his move from Chelsea in 2017.
In October, Bernard join Salford City on loan and has made 25 appearances for the Ammies this season as they aim to win promotion from League Two.
The 20-year-old told PA: “Obviously not many players want to do it [go out on loan] but it’s definitely vital for your progression in your career because going on loan [is] gaining experience and you realise what men’s football is about.”
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Barcelona-born, Puigmal turned down the opportunity to sign for his hometown club and moved to United instead in 2017, having impressed against the Red Devils for Espanyol in the Med Cup.
While he was named on the bench for that Europa League game against Astana in 2019, it was not until this season that the midfielder really caught the eye.
Puigmal scored six goals and got two assists in his first five Premier League 2 appearances of the campaign, leading to Barcelona once again making their interest in the 20-year-old known.
It seems as if the Spanish giants may finally get their man, as Puigmal’s current deal at Old Trafford expires this summer and it is believed that he will not be offered a new one.
Belgian winger Ramazani was in Charlton Athletic’s academy before joining United in 2017.
Blessed with trickery and explosive pace, he was tipped for big things by those at Old Trafford, and netted nine goals in 13 appearances in Premier League 2 last season. He also made his first team debut in Astana.
The Red Devils offered Ramazani a new contract last summer, but he turned it down while looking for first team opportunities elsewhere.
Almeira snapped him up in August and the 20-year-old has made 20 appearances for the Spanish Segunda Division side this season.
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Midfield powerhouse Traore signed from Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 and, after struggling with injuries in his first season, quickly became a regular for United’s Under-18s in 2018/19.
Last year the Frenchman made the step up to the Under-23s effortlessly and scored four times in 14 appearances in Premier League 2.
This season Traore has experienced first-team football for the first time, joining Caen on loan where he has made 19 appearances in Ligue 2.
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