- Planet Football
- 14th October 2020
Manchester United have a proud record of naming an academy graduate in every matchday squad stretching back over 4,000 games and 80 years.
But plenty of their graduates eventually move on elsewhere or need to move away from Old Trafford in order to break through at senior level.
We’ve taken a look at their 16 academy graduates that are currently playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues – the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga. A * denotes the player remains on United’s books, and is only away on loan.
Johnstone spent nine years on United’s books between 2009 and 2018 but never made a senior competitive appearance for the club.
The goalkeeper made a permanent move to West Brom and helped the Baggies secure promotion to the Premier League in 2019-20
After failing to make the grade at United, Heaton spent a few years in the Championship before becoming a solid Premier League goalkeeper at Burnley.
He joined Aston Villa in 2019 but is currently sidelined by a serious knee injury and has fallen behind new signing Emiliano Martinez in the pecking order.
Since leaving United in 2008, Bardsley has made over 250 Premier League appearances with Sunderland, Stoke City and Burnley. Nothing he achieves on a football field will ever better that video of him sparking out Wayne Rooney, however.
Never forget the time Phil Bardsley sparked out Wayne Rooney pic.twitter.com/RHky5rgELY
— Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) April 22, 2020
Keane made just five first-team appearances for United and was sent on loan four times before joining Burnely permanently.
The defender rejected an offer to return to Old Trafford in 2017 to instead join Everton, establishing himself as a first-team regular at Goodison Park.
United have made a few mistakes in the transfer market over the last few years but selling Evans to West Brom in 2015 for just £6million is right up there.
The centre-back moved to Leicester 12 months later and has now formed a brilliant defensive partnership with Caglar Soyuncu.
A four-minute cameo in a League Cup win represented Brady’s only run-out for United’s first team, but he has since established himself in the Premier League with Hull, Norwich and Burnley.
While Drinkwater might not have done anything during the last three seasons with Chelsea, he’s still a Premier League winner with Leicester.
James is still on the books at Leicester despite only making 15 Premier League appearances over the last five years, including just one in each of the last two seasons.
His contract at the King Power is finally set to come to an end next summer. We don’t expect it to be extended before then.
— Leicester City (@LCFC) November 22, 2018
The Burnley-born midfielder never made an appearance for United after breaking through from their academy, and he eventually left Old Trafford for good in 2012, signing for Huddersfield after loans at Carlisle, Scunthorpe and Coventry.
He played in all 38 of Sheffield United’s Premier League matches last season – well-deserved regular opportunities at long last, having achieved promotions with Brighton and Fulham before finally being given a chance in the top flight by Chris Wilder’s Blades.
“I was at United until I was 14, then I was released,” McNeil told The Guardian in December 2019.
“The club didn’t say anything to me, they just contacted my parents. Obviously, I was disappointed and a bit hurt, because I had been chasing a dream and I wanted to prove I could be better than my dad, but Burnley stepped in to offer me a six-week trial and I’ve never looked back since.”
The winger has been one of Burnley’s stand-out players over the past 12 months and has even been linked with a move to Manchester City.
Like Rafael, Fabio’s been turning out in Ligue 1 in recent seasons, having moved from Middlesbrough to Nantes in 2018.
Unlike his twin brother, who moved to Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir this summer, he remains in France, albeit he only made 10 appearances last term.
Once tipped as the next big thing, Januzaj failed to live up to expectations at Old Trafford and was sold to Real Sociedad in 2018.
The Belgium international has got his career back on track in La Liga and is approaching 100 appearances for the Basque outfit.
It’s been a nomadic last 10 years for the one-time Germany international, who left United in 2010 without having made a first-team appearance.
There was a brief return to England as back-up to Kasper Schmeichel at Leicester in 2016-17, but the majority of his appearances have come in his homeland. He’s currently on loan at Cologne from parent club Hannover.
An interesting career path for the Italian goalkeeper, who spent a couple of his teenage years honing his skills at Carrington before signing for Hellas Verona in 2014.
There was a brief stint at Aston Villa, making 20 appearances in the Championship in 2016-17, but he’s mostly caught the eye in Italy, standing between the sticks for Gian Piero Gasperini’s rip-roaring Atalanta as they finished 3rd in Serie A and reached the Champions League semi-finals last term.
Tipped for big things, United fans will no doubt keep a keen eye on Tahith Chong’s progress during his season-long loan at Bundesliga club Werder Bremen.
The Netherlands Under-21 international has made four appearances for the club, scoring one goal so far. He also scored an excellent brace for the club in pre-season.
The Brazilian midfielder made 40 appearances in all competitions for Solskjaer’s Red Devils in 2019-20, but increasingly found opportunities hard to come by after the arrival of Bruno Fernandes in January.
Lazio announced his signing on a season-long loan shortly before the 2020 summer deadline, but he’s yet to make his debut.