Manchester United have released a statement on the success of their academy set-up – just days after Cristiano Ronaldo criticised the club’s youngsters.
Ronaldo told Piers Morgan that today’s young footballers “don’t suffer”, “don’t care” and have it “more easily” than he did 20 years ago. He was referring to “all teams” – yet his comments appear to have struck a chord with United.
Within 12 hours of Ronaldo’s bombshell, United published an article on their website that claimed their academy is one of the most productive in the country. The statement is based on a new information published by the Premier League.
According to the article, United’s academy has been ranked as the most productive in England for the last decade. This information has come from a review of the Premier League’s ‘Elite Player Performance Plan’ – which has been shared publicly.
United are proud of their academy, which makes his comments all the more sour. “I don’t think that word [respect] is the best one, they live in a different era,” said Ronaldo. “I can see with my kid, who is 12 years old, the mentality is not the same.”
Ronaldo added: “The hunger. They [the young players] have things more easily. Everything is easy. They don’t suffer, they don’t care. I don’t mean just Man United, but all teams. They are not the same as my generation. But we cannot blame them.”
Ronaldo went on to highlight the influence of Van Nistelrooy & Ferdinand on his career before adding: “They are not going to have longevity in their careers. It is impossible. My generation you see players at 36, 37, 38 playing at a high level.”
Every United matchday squad for the past 85 years has featured at lease one academy graduate, a record that no club in England can match. They’ve also won the FA Youth Cup 11 times – including in May after a 3-1 victory against Nottingham.
Several legends have graduated from the club’s academy – including Beckham, George Best, Wes Brown, Nicky Butt, Scholes, Gary Neville, Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards, Darren Fletcher, Johnny Giles, Mark Hughes, Paul Pogba, and Rashford.
“To be officially recognised as the most productive academy since the inception of EPPP means a great deal to all of the staff here, as we continue a legacy of youth development that has thrived here throughout the last 85 years,” said United’s head of academy Nick Cox.
“The last 10 years has seen the academy go from strength to strength. Our youth development system has changed a great deal during this period, modernising and adapting, while remaining true to our historic principles that have enabled this institution to build an unrivalled record of developing players for the first team.
“The EPPP programme has played an important role in the last decade of this process and we are grateful for the support and platform that the system and Premier League has given to youth developers across the country.
“We welcome the beginning of a new era for EPPP, with a renewed focus on enriching the lives of the young boys within our care. These values are very much akin to our philosophy, and we are delighted to have played a role in shaping the next stage of the programme, which we know will continue to benefit children across the country.”