Manchester United continue to lead way in developing Premier League talent
Manchester United remain the leading developers of Premier League talent – but the gap is closing.
Press Association Sport’s research shows players who finished their youth careers in the United academy played 32,157 minutes in last season’s top flight.
That is nearly 10,000 minutes (or 44 per cent) clear of Tottenham, ranked second in the study for the second year running – but it represents a significant step down from the previous season, when United’s graduates racked up over 44,000 minutes to more than double Spurs’ tally.
Chelsea added more than 50 per cent to their total to break the 20,000 barrier and climb from ninth to third, ahead of Arsenal.
Sheffield United continued to punch above their weight in fifth place, with Championship rivals Aston Villa and Dutch pair Feyenoord and Ajax the other non-Premier League clubs in the top 10.
United out in front
The study tracked the playing time of every player in last season’s Premier League, along with the club or academy where they finished their youth career.
Twenty United graduates featured for various Premier League clubs over the season, down from 34 in 2016-17 but still the most in the top flight.
Jose Mourinho got 6,858 minutes of playing time from the club’s own academy products, led by Paul Pogba with 2,286.
Eight United graduates played 2,000 Premier League minutes or more but they lost around 12,000 minutes from the previous season’s tally, equivalent to more than 133 full games, due to various factors.
Seven of their graduates were relegated in 2016-17, including five with Sunderland who had played over 5,000 minutes between them, while injuries limited Tom Heaton and Darren Fletcher’s playing time with Burnley and Stoke respectively.
The chasing pack
Spurs climbed to 22,314 minutes, helped by talisman Harry Kane missing less time to injury than the previous season. Andros Townsend, Tom Carroll and Jake Livermore also saw big increases in playing time for Crystal Palace, Swansea and West Brom respectively.
Chelsea brought their own academy graduate Andreas Christensen into their defence and saw Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham gain valuable experience on loan at Crystal Palace and Swansea respectively.
Nathan Ake became a more integral part of Bournemouth’s line-up after making his loan move permanent while Jack Cork was ever-present for Burnley after joining from Swansea.
It has been some time since Sheffield United were a top-flight side but a handful of their graduates continue to impress.
The same six players – Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, Phil Jagielka, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Kyle Naughton and Matt Lowton – have represented the Blades academy in the last two Premier League seasons.
They were eighth in the 2017 study and rose to fifth this time around, with Calvert-Lewin establishing himself at Everton and Maguire ever-present after joining Leicester from Hull to earn World Cup selection alongside Walker.
Huddersfield’s promotion to the top flight shook up the standings – Jonathan Hogg’s 2,530 minutes helped lift Villa to sixth while Rajiv van la Parra and Terence Kongolo carried Feyenoord into the top 10.
They became the leading overseas club in seventh, three places ahead of Ajax as the Eredivisie pair sandwiched Everton and Southampton.
Benfica’s academy did not have a single graduate appear in the 2016-17 Premier League but burst into the picture this time around after contributing significantly to Manchester City’s title win.
Ederson and Bernardo Silva were important new signings at the Etihad Stadium and, together with Swansea’s Renato Sanches, combined for 5,833 minutes to leave their formative club 31st.
Another City player, Danilo, teamed up with Richarlison – whose Watford form earned him a big-money move to Everton – to bring Brazilian side America Mineiro in at 46th in the list.
Serge Aurier and Mohamed Diame saw Lens enter at 61st – one place ahead of fellow newcomers B93, where Huddersfield ever-present Mathias Jorgensen started his career.