Charlton, Pogba, Neville: Best Man United youth products ever

OLIVER HOLT: Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards make the top three in my list of the best Manchester United youth products of all time, with three Class of ’92 graduates in the top 10 and Paul Pogba ABOVE Paul Scholes and Gary Neville

  • Oliver Holt has named his list of the best Manchester United youth products ever
  • Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards and Paul Scholes make up a star-studded list
  • FA Cup final vs Man City will be 4,208th straight game featuring an academy star
  • United news LIVE: Huge Mason Mount hint as Thiago Silva comments on move 

Manchester United’s FA Cup final clash with rivals Manchester City on Saturday will be their 4,208th successive match featuring a youth product.

That remarkable record looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, with forward Marcus Rashford named Player of the Season – the first academy graduate to do so for 25 years – and current boss Erik ten Hag keen to blood young players.

Numerous legendary players throughout United’s history have come from their youth system, with the likes of Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards and Norman Whiteside among the stellar names woven into the club’s storied history. 

The ‘Class of ’92’ also saw a group of young stars including Paul Scholes and Gary Neville progress to the first team and become key parts of generation-defining teams. 

And below, Mail Sport runs through Oliver Holt’s list of his top United academy graduates of all time.

Man United’s FA Cup final vs Man City will be their 4,208th game featuring a youth product

Academy graduates like George Best (left) and Sir Bobby Charlton (right) are United legends

And below, Mail Sport columnist Oliver Holt lists his top Red Devils youth products of all time

11: Gary Neville

One-club man Gary Neville’s successful and high-profile post-playing career as a pundit and co-commentator perhaps masks his achievements as a player.

But you don’t play more than 602 times for United and 85 times for England without having something about you. 

He wasn’t the most gifted but 16 major trophies is not a bad return at all for someone Sir Alex Ferguson called ‘the best English right-back of his generation’. 

10: Paul Scholes 

Paul Scholes, famously loved by iconic central midfielders like Xavi (‘the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15-20 years’) and Zinedine Zidane (‘My toughest opponent? Scholes. He is the complete midfielder… in a class of his own’), comes in at No 10.

Another one-club man, there remains a nagging sense England did not make the most of his prodigious talents. What a player. 

9: Marcus Rashford

An almost unbelievably impressive figure, on and off the pitch. 

Indeed, some of his successful activism in advocating for free school meals had potentially led fans to question his ability as he struggled for form last season, only scoring five goals in all competitions.

Under manager Erik ten Hag, he has responded brilliantly with his best ever goalscoring season – 30 in 55 appearances – and deservedly won the Sir Matt Busby Award for Player of the Season this week.

Current star Marcus Rashford (pictured) said he hopes more academy graduates break through for United after winning the Sir Matt Busby Award for Player of the Season this week

Holt named mercurial midfielder Paul Pogba (pictured) at No 7 in his list – above Paul Scholes

8: Norman Whiteside

Ferguson labelled the Northern Irishman ‘close to the genius category’ and he was certainly adored by United supporters.

Two FA Cups and a Charity Shield trophy is a meagre return for a man of such vast talents he is still the youngest ever player to appear at a World Cup aged just 17 years and 41 years old against Yugoslavia in June 1982.

7: Paul Pogba

You can question Paul Pogba’s consistency, and many do. But you cannot question his ability.

He was one of the most richly talented players to ever emerge from the United academy after two years at Le Havre and after he left for Juventus, the Red Devils spent £89million – still the joint-ninth highest transfer fee ever – to bring him back.

The World Cup winner with France has perhaps not maximised his talent, though there is mitigation in his consistent injury record. 

6: David Beckham

With middle name ‘Robert’ chosen in honour of Bobby Charlton, it was perhaps no surprise he went on to emulate Charlton in graduating from the United academy and becoming one of the club’s best ever players.

He won league titles in four countries, was runner-up for the Ballon d’Or in 1999, the first British footballer to play 100 Champions League games and won 19 major trophies in a 20-year career. 

David Beckham (left) and Ryan Giggs (centre) are two classy widemen who starred for United

The pair were part of the famous ‘Class of ’92’ brought through by coach Eric Harrison (left)

5: Nobby Stiles

Little Nobby Stiles stood at just 5ft 6ins but towered above many others at the very top level of the game.

He played every minute of England’s World Cup-winning tournament in 1966, marking Portugal superstar Eusebio out of the game in the semi-final, and is one of only three Englishmen – alongside Charlton and Ian Callaghan – to win the World Cup and European Cup (now Champions League). 

4: Ryan Giggs

Only Gareth Barry has more Premier League appearances than Welsh winger Ryan Giggs, who played an astonishing 963 times in all competitions for United, scoring 168 goals.

He turned out for the Red Devils for 24 seasons in a row. That kind of longevity is in itself outstanding, let alone his otherworldly ability. 

In the words of Alessandro Del Piero: ‘This is embarrassing to say but I have cried twice in my life watching a football player. The first one was Maradona and the second was Ryan Giggs.’

3: Duncan Edwards

What could have been. 

One of the ‘Busby Babes’ brought through by iconic former boss Sir Matt Busby, he was described by his contemporaries as the best player they had ever seen, capable of playing in virtually any position with distinction.

He tragically passed away in the Munich air disaster, but his name and his exploits live on. 

Duncan Edwards (back, right) and Bobby Charlton (front, left) are named at No 3 and No 2

2: Bobby Charlton

A true giant. Charlton was one of the key men – if not the key man – as England won the only World Cup in their history, winning the Ballon d’Or that year, also winning the Champions League at club level.

He retired the most-capped and top-scoring Three Lions player ever, though he has been overtaken in both categories since.

Charlton scored one shy of 250 in United colours in a then-record 758 matches for the club. 

 1: George Best

Our George, simply the Best. The scout who spotted him told Busby: ‘I think I’ve found you a genius’, and he had. 

The preternaturally gifted Northern Irish winger came fifth in FIFA’s Player of the Century vote and is one of United’s ‘Holy Trinity’ along with Charlton and Denis Law enshrined forever in the Trinity Statue outside Old Trafford. 

He was ludicriously talented – anyone who plays one-twos off opponents’ shins has to be – and in terms of ability is one of the best players of all time, anywhere.

Oliver Holt’s top United youth 

1. George Best

2. Bobby Charlton

3. Duncan Edwards

4. Ryan Giggs

5. Nobby Stiles

6. David Beckham

7. Paul Pogba

8. Norman Whiteside

9. Marcus Rashford

10. Paul Scholes 

11. Gary Neville

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