Ranked! Manchester United’s 15 best academy graduates of the last 25 years
Also in this series...
- Tottenham's 11 best academy graduates of the last 25 years
- Liverpool’s 7 best academy graduates of the last 25 years
15. Ryan Shawcross
Shawcross joined United when he was 15 years old and went on to make just two appearances, in the League Cup.
He was sent out on loan to Stoke when he was 19, before eventually being sold to the Potters in 2008. Sir Alex Ferguson made sure there was a clause in his contract that would allow United first refusal on him in the future – and after Shawcross got his first England call-up in 2012, Ferguson conceded that maybe it had been a mistake to have let the defender leave.
Shawcross was named Stoke’s captain when he was just 22 and still wears the armband there now, eight years later.
14. Danny Drinkwater
Any player who has spent time at United over the past three decades is likely to have quite a few winners’ medals in the cabinet. What makes Drinkwater noteworthy is that he managed to win the league title away from Old Trafford, with Leicester, after playing 35 Premier League games in the 2015/16 season.
His efforts were recognised by Antonio Conte, who signed the former United player for his title-winning side in the summer. Drinkwater didn’t make a single appearance for United’s first team and is still awaiting his Chelsea debut due to injury, but his efforts at Leicester deserve recognition.
13. David Healy
Healy signed for United as a teenager but only made two first-team appearances for the club. The best years of his career were spent at Preston North End and at Leeds.
His inclusion in the list isn’t down to his club form, though, rather his performances at international level. With 36 goals in 95 appearances for Northern Ireland, Healy is his country’s all-time top goalscorer. Kyle Lafferty, at 30 years old, is the closest player to him with 20 goals, so you'd imagine his record will stay intact for some time.
12. John O’Shea
O’Shea’s United career is better summed up in moments, rather than periods of time, since he played more of a squad role than a starring one.
Playing across the back four, as well as in midfield, O’Shea probably paid the price for his versatility and was unable to specialise in one position – although being able to play all over the pitch meant he was able to play in more games for United than he likely would have done otherwise.
After 393 appearances, he was sold to Sunderland in 2011. He turns 37 this season and is still their captain.
11. Jonny Evans
Evans is a lifelong supporter of the club, growing up with a United-themed bedroom in a United-mad family. When he was loaned out to Sunderland, his dad would still go to Old Trafford to watch the Reds play instead.
Evans’s time at United was mixed: he had seasons when he looked like having the makings of a future captain, but also suffered campaigns he wanted to forget.
His best year came in 2011/12, when he filled in for the injured Nemanja Vidic; Evans played in 40 games in all competitions for United, and was incredibly reliable.
While he was never able to consistently replicate the form he enjoyed that season, it was still a shock when Louis van Gaal sold him in 2015. The fact that title favourites Manchester City tried to sign him in the summer speaks volumes about the current West Brom captain’s worth.