Manchester United FC open the door for "Class of 16" hopefuls
Marcus Rashford has become a poster boy for the latest generation of United youngsters.
Manchester: Whether or not they go on to emulate Manchester United`s fabled "Class of `92" and provide the backbone for a glittering future, the emergence of some excellent young players has been one bright spot in a difficult season for the club.
Marcus Rashford has become a poster boy for the latest generation of United youngsters, who may one day become known as the "Class of `16".
The 18-year-old has scored five goals in his first 10 appearances, including two on his debut against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League in February.
United`s under-21 manager Warren Joyce, who oversees the development from the age of eight of every promising player who comes to Old Trafford, does not rule out the club again basing the foundation of future success on home-grown talents.
"I do not think it is impossible that we will be talking about a "Class of `16" in the future," Joyce told Reuters in an interview at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
"If you look at the players that we have developed at the club over the last few years you`ll see that we have maintained our standards."
The list he reels off is a long one, all names familiar to fans of the Premier League. They were all developed by United but have since left.
Danny Simpson, Rafael and Fabio Da Silva, Ritchie De Laet, Phil Bardsley, Ryan Shawcross, Craig Cathcart, Jonny Evans, Michael Keane, James Chester, Danny Drinkwater, Tom Cleverley, Darron Gibson, Danny Welbeck, Robbie Brady and Josh King all came through the United youth ranks.
"A few years ago with the first team winning the Premier League and the Champions League and with a world class player in every position, it was hard for any youngster to break into the team past Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest," said Joyce.
"But I think any manager would be happy to have any one of those players who have left here. And if they leave here having learnt everything we can offer them, and with their heads held high, then they can be set hopefully for a 10 or 15-year career at the highest level.
"I almost regard them still as Manchester United players -- just out on loan."
While the door to the first team was difficult to open before, United`s problems this season with injuries and indifferent performances mean opportunities are now easier to come by for young players.
As well as Rashford beginning to establish himself, there have been openings for teenage defenders Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Joe Riley, Regan Poole and Donald Love.
James Weir, the captain of the under-21s is another highly-rated midfield prospect, as is 17-year-old Axel Tuanzebe, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but brought up in Rochdale, near Manchester, and at United since he was eight.