United turn to Butt in bid to reinvigorate academy
Nicky Butt has taken charge of Manchester United's youth set-up with the intention of finding the next Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville or Paul Scholes.
Butt has been confirmed as the new head of the club's academy, taking from Brian McClair, who joined the Scottish Football Association last summer.
The former England midfielder was part of one of the most famous groups of players to emerge from the Old Trafford youth system, the Class of '92. Butt, Giggs, Scholes, David Beckham and the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil, graduated to a successful United side after playing for the youth teams in the early 1990s.
The club's academy set-up has been subjected to a year-long review, set up by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, amid concerns that they were struggling to attract young players of a high enough calibre.
Butt, who has been coaching United's U-19 side for the last three years, believes the challenge is to find players who can bring in the next era of first-team success.
He said: "We want another Giggs, Neville or Scholes, these one-club guys who play here for many years and contribute to the club. We're very proud when the youngsters make their debuts, very proud when they have careers in the Championship and League One but, ultimately, the aim is to provide top, top-class players for Manchester United that can go on to win the Champions League. "
Butt believes that the emergence of young players such as defenders Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Donald Love, as well as winger Jesse Lingard, is evidence that it is still possible for home-grown talent to break through at the club.
"No one else can touch our club with our pathway for the players to come through. We speak to the parents very passionately about it and the evidence is there for all to see," he said. "We've done that very well for many years but we can't stand still. We must move forward with every aspect of the academy and it starts with me taking over and moving forward. We know we're not far away."
United's senior side visit Danish champions Midtjylland for a Europa League round of 32 first-leg match tomorrow, and will face a player seeking to embarrass his childhood heroes. The Midtjylland midfielder Mikkel Duelund has a framed Wayne Rooney shirt on the wall at his home, but wants to end the England captain's hopes of winning the competition.
"I have been a United supporter since I was a little boy," The 18-year-old said. "My cousin played with the Denmark youth national team against Wayne Rooney and got his shirt for me after the game. So I have had Rooney's shirt on my wall for many years, and now I will face him in an important game. " (© Daily Telegraph, London)