Nowhere in the world like it – academy chiefs celebrate Man Utd pipeline

Manchester United academy chiefs Nick Cox and Travis Binnion believe a bright future lies ahead at a club where youth development is unlike anywhere else in the world.

There has now been at least one youth product in the Red Devils squad for a jaw-dropping 4,259 consecutive matches stretching back to 1937.

From Duncan Edwards, Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best to Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo, United have reaped the rewards of their focus on youth development.

The PA news agency’s research also found United’s academy produced the most playing time in the top flight as a whole, with 21 academy graduates making appearances totalling over 34,000 minutes.

The latter pair are among the young stars making an impact in the first team of a club that relied on homegrown players more than any other in this season’s Premier League.

United’s director of academy Cox told PA: “I’m really proud of the work we’re doing right now. I think we’ve got good players, we’ve got good coaches, good staff. I’m proud of where we’re at.

“But the pride is also in the fact that I think youth development means something more at Man United than it does at any other football club.

“That is like the weight of momentum from years and years of putting kids into the first team, and kids being at the heart of our greatest successes.

“There’s so much momentum behind it, there’s an obsession. The fans are obsessed with our young players, and I love that. I love that they’re interested in how our youth teams are doing and how the kids are progressing.

“I’ve got a pride in being part of that. There’s nowhere else in the world like it for youth development, I don’t think.”

Those sentiments are echoed by Binnion, United’s head of player development and coaching.

The 37-year-old led the likes of Mainoo and Garnacho to a record-extending 11th FA Youth Cup win in 2022 and believes the pathway from the academy is as strong as ever.

Binnion feels PA’s statistics are a “validation for a long period of work” by a club that are on the right track as Ineos rebuilds after a bumpy season at first-team level.

“I think we all believe there’s a bright future – obviously the ownership, the academy and just the general appetite to be successful,” Binnion said.

“But we have to acknowledge that this season’s not been successful, and we want to put players into a winning first team.

“It will be harder, but we have to back ourselves that that we’re always going to produce players that are going to help our first team regardless of how successful they are.

“But we don’t want to be putting players in that aren’t good enough or aren’t going to be ready when the club makes the step that we all believe it’s going to.”

United recently celebrated Ethan Wheatley becoming the 250th academy graduate to represent the first team.

The talented forward was part of the side that won the treble of the U18 Premier League North, the U18 Premier League Cup and then last week’s U18 Premier League national final.

Cox said: “It’s important the boys of that age know how to win, that they are learning how to win under pressure on a regular basis.

“But there’s also a need for us not to get too carried away with trophies because that’s not why we’re here.

“The statistics that you’ve shared is ultimately why Trav and I are here. Those statistics are more satisfying for us than the winning of trophies.

“But in terms of the boys having an experience of winning, going the distance in competitions, we think that will hold them in good stead for the careers ahead of them.”


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