Youth football is something that many players should not take for granted. More and more younger players are coming through the ranks at top Premier League and Championship clubs earning themselves a place in their club’s first-team.
In recent memory names such as Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell and Harry Winks to list a few have come through the ranks of England’s top clubs and gone on to represent England at international level.
However, there are also players who have looked promising at youth level but have failed to break into their senior team despite representing their county at youth level also. Now some of these players have gone on to have reasonably successful careers and some not so much.
Manchester United are one of the best clubs to have produced an exceptional amount of talented players through their youth ranks, just look at the Class of 92 as an example of this. Though there have been numerous successes, there have also been plenty of players that have fell through the ranks and failed to break into the club’s first-team and become an established player.
As many of you know, football can be a cruel sport and lead to players becoming a free agent. Whether this was due to a severe injury, numerous poor performances, a new manager being appointed and not deeming that player as part of their plans, etc, being without a club is the one thing a footballer doesn’t want to be.
As a result I have decided to look at five former Manchester United youth players who currently find themselves as free agents.
5 | Reece Brown | 27 | Club tenure 2000-13 | Centre-Back |
Brother of United legend Wes Brown and fellow centre-back Reece Brown, was a member of the club’s youth ranks from 2000-2009.
The 27-year-old spent five years (2009-13) as a ‘senior player’ at Old Trafford but failed to make a single appearance. Brown did however have numerous loan spells to gain experience whilst under contract and represented England at under-19 and under-20 level.
He was released by United at the end of 2012-13 season and went on to represent several clubs. his most recent club was Rochdale where he spent the duration of the 2017-18. Brown only made four appearances in all competitions for the Dale.
The centre-back has spent most of career in League One and to date has made 116 appearances in English football, scoring just one senior goal.
At only 27 he has plenty of years left to play. Where that will be who knows, he may follow in his brother’s footsteps and venture abroad.
4 | Cameron Stewart | 27 | Club tenure 2007-11 | Right-Midfielder |
Cameron Stewart joined the club in 2007. He spent a period of two years (2007-2009) in United’s youth ranks before being promoted to the senior team in December 2009.
The winger was another player who failed to make a single appearance during his tenure, spending the two seasons as a ‘senior player’ (2009-11) on loan elsewhere. Stewart represented England at under-17, under-19 and under-20 level.
He left Old Trafford on deadline day 2011 joining Hull City.
Stewart has represented nine clubs since leaving United. Though these were mostly loan deals, he did play for three clubs permanently (Hull included).
His most recent club was Lincoln City where he made eight appearances in all competitions during the 2017-18 season. While at Sincil Bank, Stewart won the EFL Trophy.
Having featured in all three Football Leagues he has experience that could be worthwhile to plenty of clubs. It’ll be interesting too see where his next venture will be considering he has made a total of 148 appearances and scored nine goals.
3 | Danny Guthrie | 31 | Club tenure 2000-02 | Centre-Midfielder |
Something I think not many people will know is Danny Guthrie spent two years in United’s youth ranks before leaving to join rivals Liverpool’s academy in 2002. Now you could argue that means he wasn’t technically a youth player at Old Trafford, but we’re counting him for this list.
Following his move to Merseyside, Guthrie spent a further three years in Liverpool’s youth teams – where he also represented England under-16s, before being promoted to their senior squad in 2005. He didn’t make his debut until October 2006 in a League Cup third round games against Reading – one of his future clubs.
His time at the Reds span three seasons (2005-08), where the 31-year-old made a combined seven appearances in all competitions for the club.
He joined Newcastle United in July 2008 on a four-year contract. His spell at the club would last the entirety of his deal and he was then released.
Guthrie would go on the represent four other English clubs – his last being Blackburn Rovers in 2017. Post-2017 the midfielder chose to further his career abroad, joining Indonesian side Mitra Kukar in January 2018 for their 2018 campaign. He made 30 appearances and scored two goals during the campaign.
Unfortunately the club finished in a relegation place and Guthrie was released.
The 31-year-old is at an age now where he needs to be playing a significant amount to prevent it potentially coming to an end. Where he ends up next, who knows, maybe back in England where he has made a combined 277 appearances in all competitions, scoring 16 goals?
2 | Larnell Cole | 25 | Club tenure 2009-14 | Right-Midfielder |
The youngest player on the list at 25, Larnell Cole joined United in 2009 and spent only a brief period in the club’s youth ranks before being promoted to the first team in 2011.
Cole made his debut and only appearance for the Red Devils in a third round League Cup game against Leeds United in September 2011. Whilst at the he also represented England at under-19 and under-20 levels.
The winger’s time at the club came to an end on deadline day 2014, when he joined Fulham. Cole was signed by former United coach René Meulensteen. The Dutch manager was sacked and replaced by Felix Magath on 14 February 2014.
Upon his arrival, Magath deemed Cole surplus to requirements – this resulted in him spending the rest of his tenure under contract at Craven Cottage being loaned out at MK Dons for the rest of the 2013-14 season, Shrewsbury Town for the 2015-16 season, and Inverness Caledonian Thistle for the 2016-17 season. During the 2014-15 season the 25-year-old didn’t play a single competitive game.
Cole’s most recent club was Tranmere Rovers. He joined Rovers in October 2017 and mutually terminated his contract on 14 January 2019.
Thus far in his career the winger has made 94 appearances in all competitions, scoring nine goals. He has experience in the Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two and the National League, as well as the Scottish Premiership. This could be a key factor in him finding a club relatively quickly, whether that be in the Football League, National League, or back in Scotland.
1 | Tom Thorpe | 26 | Club tenure 2009-15 | Centre-Back |
Tom Thorpe spent five years in United’s youth ranks before being promoted to the club’s senior team. The centre-back joined the club in 2009 at the age of 16.
The 26-year-old spent the the end half of the 2013-14 season on loan at Birmingham City. He made six Blues appearances.
Thorpe would make his first and only appearance for United as an injury time substitute against West Ham on 27 September 2014.
The defender was released at the end of the 2014-15 season and found himself on the books of Rotherham United swiftly after leaving Old Trafford. He signed a two-year contract with the Millers and spent two periods away from the club on loan.
His most recent club was ATK in India, where he spent the duration of the 2017-18 season. He would make 11 appearances for the club, scoring one goal.
Despite featuring for six clubs, Thorpe has only made 57 career appearances. A number that may not be high, but one that he can say he has gained experience from in both England and India.
Will we see Thorpe return to English football? or will the 26-year-old be tempted to search for an opportunity to stay abroad? We’ll have to wait and see…
These were just five of several former Manchester United youth players to be out of contract currently. Do you think they will all be snapped up soon?
Would you take any of these players at your club? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
featured image credit planet football