Manchester United have had so many talented youngsters come through their academy in the Premier League era.
Many young footballers looking to make a name for themselves were handed their first-team debuts by Sir Alex Ferguson and went on to have successful careers.
David Beckham, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes were just three members of United’s famous ‘Class of ’95’, a group of youngsters which graduated through the academy and all cemented themselves in United’s history.
In 2001, Ferguson thought another group of youngsters were set to break through and establish themselves in the first-team.
He named seven players that he thought had the capabilities to step up to top level football.
The legendary Scotsman said, per the Sun: “Darren Fletcher, who we hope will get over his broken leg, is good. Michael Stewart and Luke Chadwick are doing very well, and John O’Shea’s doing well too.
“There’s a young left-back called Paul Tierney who’s doing well, as is Danny Pugh.
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“But there’s a young boy who has started now, he’s 16, called Kieran Richardson. He’s going to be a fantastic player.”
So, what happened to the seven youngsters backed by Fergie? Find out below…
Ferguson was hoping that Fletcher would overcome a broken leg and he managed to do so.
Fletcher was just 17 years old at the time and, two years later, he made his debut for United.
He went on to play 342 times for the club, scoring 24 times, and helped the Red Devils to five Premier League trophies.
Unfortunately, he was hindered in the back end of his United career due to a prolonged battle with ulcerative colitis.
Fletcher overcame the illness and departed United in 2015. He turned out for West Brom and Stoke City before hanging up his boots in 2019.
Stewart made eight appearances in the league for United before departing for Hibernian in 2005.
His best spell of his career came at Hearts, where he played 87 times in the league and hit the back of the net on 12 ocassions.
Stewart had a brief spell in Turkey with Gençlerbirliği before ending his career in 2011 after a short stint with Charlton Athletic.
The Scotsman also made four appearances for his country.
Chadwick broke into United’s first team during the 2000/01 season, playing 22 times as United won the Premier League title.
But he failed to kick on and, after only a handful appearances in the next few years, he departed the club in 2004.
He went on to play for numerous clubs in England’s second tier, including West Ham, Stoke City and Norwich City, before dropping down to League One with MK Dons in 2008.
Chadwick spent six successful seasons at the club, playing 246 times and scoring 24 goals, while also winning their Player of the Year award twice.
He joined boyhood club Cambridge United in 2013 and hung his boots up two years later.
O’Shea earned himself a reputation as a reliable defender during his successful stint at the club.
He played 393 times for the club and helped them to 14 major titles before departing for Sunderland in 2011.
O’Shea spent six seasons at The Black Cats before ending his career in 2019 after a brief spell with Reading.
He represented the Republic of Ireland on 118 occasions, making him the third most capped player in their history.
Tierney did not hit the heights expected of him by Ferguson. He made just one first team appearance for United before departing in 2005.
Tierney never really managed to establish himself at a club as he enjoyed brief spells at Livingston and Blackpool.
He signed for Conference outfit Altrincham in 2008 at the age of 26. But he lasted just a month at the club. Altrincham proved to be the last club he played for in his professional career.
Pugh may have never established himself as a regular at United – he made just seven appearances for the first team – but he did go on to have a decent career.
He went on to turn out for the likes of Leeds United and Preston North End, before making 37 Premier League appearances with Stoke City.
Pugh ended his career after a spell with Port Vale in 2020 and turned his head to coaching. He has been caretaker manager of the club on two separate occasions, with a combined record of two wins in seven games.
Ferguson had high hopes for Richardson and, while he had a decent Premier League career, he never established himself as a regular at United.
He made his debut for the Red Devils in 2002 and played 81 times for the club, scoring 11 times, before joining Sunderland in a £5.5m move in 2007.
He played 149 times for Sunderland and also featured in the Premier League for Fulham and Aston Villa and in the Championship with Cardiff City.
Richardson made eight appearances for England, scoring twice.
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