Nicky Butt is excited about the talent coming through at Manchester United — but he will not rest until the players produced make us champions again.
The former Man Utd midfielder is playing a huge role in helping youth team players progress into the first-team. This season we have seen the likes of Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams stamp their authority on the senior team. Now they are both considered important players.
Butt was promoted from head of academy to head of first-team development in the summer, and is working closely with manager and former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Although he has seen a number of youth team players get minutes in the first-team this season, Butt is expecting more from the academy and won’t settle until United are challenging for titles.
Butt told Sky Sports: “I think you can judge me and the people who develop for the first team in hopefully two or three years when we’re challenging for titles.
“If you’re challenging for titles and getting players in the first team, that’s when you know you’re doing an unbelievable job.
“We’ve got some great kids coming into the first team now that are doing very well.
“But I think the peak of the mountain in my job is when Man United are where they should be – and will be again – and we’re still getting players into the first team. That’s when you can say we’re doing a really, really good job.
“We’re doing a good job now. Forget the young ones, the U12s, U13s, U14s, they’re always doing great.
“But me, Neil Ryan (Under-18 coach) and Neil Wood (Under-23 coach) and the support staff around that, when we’re getting players into the first team and we’re winning titles and getting to the later stages of the Champions League, then we’re doing an unbelievable job.”
As a member of the Class of 92, Butt has experience when it comes to going through the ranks at United and becoming an incredibly successful footballer. And of course he wants the same for every young lad in the academy.
Speaking to investors this week, Ed Woodward highlighted the young talent being brought in under the radar, although Hannibal Merjbri is an exception after signing from Monaco aged 16 in the summer for a hefty fee.
“It’s hard to get him under the radar when we’ve chased him for so long and he’s come from a big club for a big fee, so that’s impossible,” Butt added.
“But you want to get young people under the radar because, coming from a different country and getting the price tag in your head and coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world, there’s going to be so much pressure in the first place.
“I’ve got a 16-year-old kid who, I would hate that pressure on their shoulders, but they have that and it’d be foolish to put them out there too soon, because you don’t know what’s around the corner. They’re children.
“There is a long road to the first team and big bumps and some are going to do what Mason (Greenwood) or Marcus (Rashford) have done, some might go the Jesse (Lingard) way – going on loan five or six times and getting there.
“We’ve got some really good players that I believe will play for Man United. When, I don’t know. But they will play for Man United and, yeah, some of them have been brought through the ranks from seven, eight, nine or 10.”
This sounds promising for the future but Solskjaer needs to invest heavily this summer and add some real quality to the squad.
The rebuilding process must continue — following on from the arrival of Bruno Fernandes — and top players will benefit the youngsters coming through, as Butt himself witnessed when playing alongside Eric Cantona.