Manchester United's best academy graduates of all time: From Best to Beckham, Scholes to Rashford

Rashford Best Beckham Manchester United GFX
The club's academy has a long and proud history of success, producing one superstar after another

From the Busby Babes to the Class of ’92, it is in Manchester United’s DNA to build from within. Perhaps no major club is more synonymous with developing young talent, with homegrown greats Sir Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs becoming icons of Old Trafford and the game at large.

There are too many to name all at once. The Babes – many of whom tragically perished in the Munich air crash of 1958 – are part of the soul of the club.

Meanwhile, the Class of ’92 are still adding to their legacy as football club owners, prominent television pundits and more.

And in around those more famous eras was a constant flow of talent, making the United production line unique in the game. Below, GOAL picks out the club's greatest academy graduates...

  1. Duncan Edwards
    Offside Sports

    Duncan Edwards

    No list could be complete without Edwards.

    For those who played with or against him, the consensus is that he may have gone on to be regarded the greatest of all time.

    A powerhouse, he was capable of playing almost anywhere and was the crown jewel of Busby's Babes.

    Tragically died as a result of his injuries sustained in the Munich air disaster.

  2. Sir Bobby Charlton
    Getty Images

    Sir Bobby Charlton

    One of the greatest players of all time, Charlton won it all.

    He was both a United legend, who fired them to European Cup triumph in 1968, and an England great, who led the Three Lions to World Cup glory two years earlier.

    Only Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane have scored more goals for England – and only Ryan Giggs has played more games for United.

    Won the Ballon d'Or in 1966.

  3. Nobby Stiles

    Nobby Stiles

    Another United and England legend, who starred in the '66 World Cup triumph.

    Despite his diminutive stature, Stiles was as hard as they come. His shepherding of Portugal icon Eusebio, in both the World Cup and then again in the 1968 European Cup final against Benfica was a masterclass in the art of marking.

  4. George Best
    Getty Images

    George Best

    The most famous footballer of his generation, whose legend lives on to this day.

    Best would leave defenders with twisted blood and was a marketer's dream, with pop-star good looks and a rock-n-roll lifestyle.

    His was a star that burned bright and faded far too soon as his alcohol addiction caught up with him.

    At his peark, he was the poster boy of Busby's last great United team. He won the European Cup but should have gone on to achieve so much more.

  5. Sammy McIlroy

    Sammy McIlroy

    McIlroy deserved to be part of a much more successful United team but he earned legendary status among the club's fans as one of the stars of the 1970s.

    Scoring on his debut against Manchester City certainly helped, while he was also part of the Tommy Docherty's Second Division promotion-winning team in '75.

    Busby's final signing as manager, McIlroy won his only major trophy in a United shirt in 1977, lifting the FA Cup.

  6. Norman Whiteside

    Norman Whiteside

    Scored a stunning FA Cup winner against Everton in 1985 and was one of the most talented players of his generation.

    He was the youngest player to play at a World Cup when appearing in the '82 finals, aged 17 years and 41 days, breaking Pele's record.

    Whiteside was the youngest player to score in a League Cup final in '83 and repeated that feat in the same year when becoming the youngest to score in the FA Cup final. He was also the first player to score in both domestic finals in the same season.

    United fans expected Whiteside to become one of their all-time greats but injuries and poor discipline ultimately curtailed his career, with Ferguson reluctantly selling him to Everton in 1989.

  7. Mark Hughes

    Mark Hughes

    Another absolute legend but Hughes didn't fully earn that status until returning to United from Barcelona.

    His talents had been spotted by the Catalan giants after bursting onto the scene at Old Trafford as a 19-year-old and they snapped him up a then-enormous fee of £2.3 million ($2.75m) in '86.

    Ferguson quickly signed him back and Hughes would go on to become a key figure in the Scot's first great United team.

    A scorer of crucial goals, he won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the European Super Cup among other trophies.

  8. Mark Robins

    Mark Robins

    Will forever go down as the man who saved Fergie's job.

    Who knows where United would be without the pocket-sized striker's goals on the way the FA Cup final in 1990?

    While United always claimed Ferguson's job was not on the line when his struggling side travelled to Nottingham Forest for a third-round tie in January that year, it is hard to imagine he would have survived the season if not for Robins' intervention.

    He scored the winner and then popped up with more important goals on the way to Wembley.

    Never established himself as a great but few players were more critical to Ferguson's success.

  9. Ryan Giggs
    Getty Images

    Ryan Giggs

    Quite possibly United’s greatest ever player.

    No-one has played more games for the club (963), while Giggs also won 25 major honours, including 13 Premier League titles.

    Giggs was the one common factor in all of Ferguson’s league crowns – and the club are still waiting for their first since he hung up his boots at the age of 40.

    Actually made his debut in 1991, but became a star in the Premier League years.

    An insatiable appetite for success, Giggs reinvented himself throughout his career to enable him to remain a pivotal figure in an ever-changing squad.

    He went from flying winger to midfield dictator to set records that may never be surpassed at Old Trafford.

  10. David Beckham
    Getty Images

    David Beckham

    A global icon, who has transcended football with his achievements both on and off the pitch.

    His good looks and Spice Girl wife, Victoria, ensured he’d grace the front pages as well as the back throughout his career – but it also clouded the quality that saw him play for two of the biggest clubs in the world in United and Real Madrid, as well as captain England.

    From his goal from the halfway line against Wimbledon in 1996, to his dramatic free-kick against Greece to book the Three Lions’ place at the 2002 World Cup, he was always a man for the big occasion.

    He would go on to become a trailblazer in MLS and now owns his own franchise, Inter Miami.

  11. Paul Scholes
    Getty Images

    Paul Scholes

    Nicknamed ‘Satnav’ because of his ability to find anyone with a pass, Scholes was one of the more underrated members of the Class of ’92 – but not by those who played with or against him.

    His list of admirers includes Pep Guardiola, who described him as the “best midfielder of his generation".

    Zinedine Zidane called him “untouchable” and Barcelona great Xavi considered him the “most complete” midfielder.

    Scholes dictated the game with his range of passing but he also had an eye for spectacular goals.

    Won 11 Premier League titles and the Champions League in a trophy-laden career.

  12. Gary Neville
    Getty Images

    Gary Neville

    A fixture on the right of United’s defence for a long time, with his partnership with Beckham a feature during the 1999 Treble-winning campaign.

    Neville was quick and brave – and a natural leader in the dressing room and on the pitch.

    A one-club man, he made 602 appearances for United, winning 17 major honours.

    Of the Class of ’92, Neville would often be the example used by coaches when trying to inspire young players.

    Despite not being blessed with the more obvious gifts of Beckham or Scholes, he was the ultimate example of someone who made the absolute most of his talent.

  13. Wes Brown

    Wes Brown

    The stream of talent making its way to the first team slowed down after the influx of the Class of ’92 – but Brown was a player many thought would be destined for the top.

    While he never quite realised his potential as a world class centre-back, he was an important member of the 2008 Champions League-winning team, playing at right-back.

    There was a belief that he and Rio Ferdinand would form a partnership to last for years – but the arrival of Nemanja Vidic ended such talk.

    Still won 11 major trophies with United.

  14. Darren Fletcher
    Getty Images

    Darren Fletcher

    Another underrated youth product, who lacked the glitz and glam of more famous graduates, but still played an important role in Ferguson’s final period in charge.

    He was as close as United came to replacing the box-to-box qualities of Roy Keane.

    Won five Premier League titles and cruelly suspended for the Champions League final of 2009, which Ferguson thought was a major factor in United's defeat to Barca that year.

  15. Gerard Pique

    Gerard Pique

    Not all graduates go on to become United greats – but there is no doubting Pique’s greatness.

    A Barcelona and Spain legend, he is one of the most decorated footballers of all time, winning 26 major trophies, including three Champions Leagues, the World Cup and the European Championship.

    United lured him away from Barca’s famed La Masia but he returned in 2008 with doubts over his suitability to Premier League football.

    In his first season back at Camp Nou, Pique was on the winning side as the Blaugrana beat United in the final of the Champions League.

  16. Paul Pogba
    Getty Images

    Paul Pogba

    United fans had to wait to get a proper look at Pogba – but he was another to be schooled in their academy after being snapped up from Le Havre as a teenager.

    With huge levels of excitement surrounding his performances at youth level, he infuriated Ferguson when opting to join Juventus as a free agent. He returned in 2016 as a multiple title-winner and the most expensive player of all time in a world record £89m ($110m) deal.

    United will feel they still didn’t see the best of the man who would lead France to the World Cup in 2018, with Pogba emblematic of a miserable period for the club.

    He left again this summer. Again as a free agent. Again to join Juventus.

  17. Ravel Morrison

    Ravel Morrison

    Will go down as one of the great missed opportunities.

    An absolute world-class talent, he was earmarked at an early age as the next United superstar.

    But issues, including discipline, ultimately saw Ferguson accept defeat, selling Morrison to West Ham in 2012.

    There have been glimpses of that quality since, but never often enough.

    Has just joined up with Wayne Rooney at DC United. At the age of 29, it feels like an opportunity to earn the adulation his talent deserves.

  18. Marcus Rashford
    Getty Images

    Marcus Rashford

    Made a spectacular introduction to United fans – scoring four goals in his first two games after Louis van Gaal turned to him in desperation due to an injury crisis in attack.

    He never looked back – going on to score on his England debut later that year.

    But Rashford has struggled to kick on in recent years, with injuries and frequent managerial changes hampering his development.

    Still just 24 years old, there is time to realise his remarkable potential.