10 former Man Utd academy players who excelled after quitting Old Trafford

Manchester United are one of the biggest sides on the planet, but a ticket from their academy doesn't guarantee success.

While United have a rich history of promoting players through their youth ranks to go on to have a wealth of success in the first-team, some players are bound to slip through the cracks.

The Red Devils' Class of '92 is the best example, as a group of young upstarts propelled United to the Premier League title.

But for every Paul Scholes, there is a Gerard Pique.

And Daily Star Sport is looking at 10 former United academy players who shone elsewhere.

Paul Pogba

There's nothing quite like a controversial entry to start a list, and while Paul Pogba returned to United in 2016, there's no doubt he played his best football in Turin.

Pogba joined United's academy from Le Harve in 2009, but by his exit in 2012, the Frenchman had amassed three first-team opportunities.

Sir Alex Ferguson blamed his exit, on a free transfer, on Pogba's superagent Mino Raiola.

However, Pogba was so impressive at Juventus that United decided to smash the world record to bring him back to Old Trafford.

Who is United's greatest ever academy graduate? Let us know in the comments section

Danny Drinkwater

Danny Drinkwater still plays his football at Stamford Bridge, but he currently doesn't have a squad number and is out on loan at Championship side Reading.

Drinkwater is, presumably, thinking of better times at Leicester City when he was briefly one of England's best midfielders.

The Englishman was central to Claudio Ranieri's success in the 16/17 campaign, but he originally got his move to Leicester after United offloaded him.

Drinkwater spent over a decade at United without one first-team appearance.

Michael Keane

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Born in Stockport, Michael Keane spent over ten years at Manchester United, including four as part of the first team.

However, during his spell at United, Keane only managed one Premier League appearance.

It took a loan move to Burnley for Keane to find his feet, and after that was made permanent he was shortlisted for the 2017 Young PFA Player of the Year.

Keane is now a regular fixture at the heart of the Everton defence, and he has England caps under his belt.

Gerard Pique

United took a gamble in 2004 when they secured the services of a 17-year-old Gerard Pique from Barcelona.

Pique spent a brief amount of time in the academy but was soon in the first-team picture despite United's formidable defensive partnership of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

"I walked into [Sir Alex Ferguson's] office, and I was honest with him," Pique later wrote in the Players Tribunal.

"I said, 'Listen, I feel like I’ve lost your trust. Barcelona is my home. I want to go back'."

Tom Heaton

When United finally cut ties with Tom Heaton in 2010, few would have thought six years later he would be making an appearance for England.

Heaton emerged through United's youth ranks, and he made several loan spells, including one particularly bizarre spell in Belgium with Royal Antwerp.

Like Keane, Heaton truly found his feet under Sean Dyche.

The shot-stopper became an integral part of the Burnley side, and he even earned himself a move back to United in 2021.


Ben Brereton Diaz

When Ben Brereton Diaz was in the United ranks he was still just Ben Brereton, yet to discover his Chilean goalscoring alter-ego.

“From the ages of seven to 14 he was with Manchester United, he would eat his food and do his homework in the car. He was very dedicated to it," his mother revealed to the Lancashire Telegraph.

However, United failed to see potential in the young man, and he was soon dropped from the academy when he returned to Stoke City.

Brereton Diaz has bagged 13 goals in 17 appearances for Blackburn Rovers while shinning on the international stage for Chile.

Jack Harrison

Jack Harrison has certainly taken the scenic route to the pinnacle of professional football.

Harrison has shone under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United, but he started life on Merseyside, at Liverpool.

However, after just one year in the Liverpool academy, Harrison made the switch to United, where he spent seven years.

Harrison made the brave move to switch to the US, and he was the first pick of the 2016 MLS Superdraft before Manchester City came calling.

Giuseppi Rossi

Giuseppi Rossi was one of the finest strikers of his generation, and the Italian was regularly on the scoresheet for Villarreal and Fiorentina.

However, Rossi's career could have panned out very differently if he had remained at United.

Rossi had the dream debut at United, like Pique he spent a brief spell in with the youngsters before replacing Ruud Van Nistelrooy and finding the net against Sunderland.

But that was as good as it got for Rossi, and he was soon on his way to the Yellow Submarine.

Robbie Savage

The forgotten member of the Class of '92, Robbie Savage started out life as a striker in United's youth ranks.

Unlike his contemporaries, Savage wasn't given a first-team opportunity at United, and he moved onto Crewe Alexander in 1994.

That move started off a journeyman career that saw him represent Blackburn, Derby, and Birmingham among others.

Savage's son, Charlie Savage, is now in the United academy.

Shaun Goater

One of City's greatest ever players started out life at United.

Goater, a native of Bermuda, was spotted by United scouts and brought across to England for a trial in 1988.

It took Goater just one season to force his way into the first team, but he failed to make an appearance for Sir Alex Ferguson's side, and he was let go.

A decision they would live to regret when he turned up on Moss Side a couple of years later to regularly pick apart the United defence.

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