Manchester United are renowned for developing brilliant young footballers, but their winners of the Academy Player of the Year award this century haven’t always gone on to success.
The award is named after Jimmy Murphy, who worked at Old Trafford for over 25 years as assistant manager, first-team coach, reserves manager and scout.
We’ve taken a look back at every recipient of the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year since 2000.
1999-00 – Bojan Djordjic
One of the Premier League one-game wonders we couldn’t track down, Djordic’s solitary United appearance came in a 3-1 defeat to Tottenham in May 2001.
The winger then embarked on a nomadic career with spells in the Football League, Denmark, Serbia, Hungary, Belgium, Sweden and India.
Djordjic’s career has come full circle, as he now works as a pundit for MUTV and Swedish television.
He’s been outspoken about the club’s transfer policy, telling Swedish station Expressen in 2019: “The problem has been that the leadership figures and big stars like Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney have not been replaced with enough good players.
“But money has nevertheless been spent because the player recruitment and the things behind the scenes have been more about making money than caring about the sport.”
2000-01 – Alan Tate
Despite captaining United’s reserves, Tate never made a first-team appearance for the club before going on to establish himself as a Swansea stalwart.
The defender initially joined Swansea in 2002, helping the Welsh outfit avoid relegation from the Football League before playing an integral part in their incredible rise to the top flight.
Tate retired in 2016 after a short spell with Port Talbot Town before returning to Swansea as youth coach, revealing in 2018 that he had received some tips from his former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
He became an assistant first-team coach at Swansea in September 2019.
2001-02 – Paul Tierney
Tierney did actually get to taste senior football with the Red Devils, appearing in a League Cup defeat to second-tier West Brom in December 2003.
But the left-back dropped down the divisions thereafter and was last seen spending a month at Altrincham in 2008 when he was still just 26.
2002-03 – Ben Collett
A sad tale, Collett scored in the first leg of United’s FA Youth Cup victory over Middlesbrough in 2003, but his career would never recover after he suffered a double leg break in a reserve game a week later.
The midfielder did have short spells at New Zealand Knights and AGOVV Apeldoorn but later won a £4.5million payout after undergoing legal proceedings against Middlesbrough and their player Gary Smith.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian McClair, Howard Wilkinson and Gary Neville all attending the hearing, in which Neville said he expected Collett to become “a top-level football player”, while Fergie described the midfielder as “A-class” with an “outstanding chance” of becoming a full-time professional if he had not been injured.
2003-04 – Jonathan Spector
We used to like Spector. We’re not sure why and can’t really remember if he was even any good or not. But Jonathan Spector is quite a cool name.
Anyway, yes, the former US international was named Orlando City captain in 2017-18, only to be released at the end of an injury-hit campaign. He retired in 2019.
Ironically, the standout performance of Spector’s career came when he scored twice against United for West Ham in a League Cup quarter-final in 2010.
— West Ham United (@WestHam) November 30, 2015
2004-05 – Giuseppe Rossi
Another player who has had a promising career decimated by injury – albeit not to the same extent as Ben Collett – Rossi was most recently seen playing for Real Salt Lake.
The striker, still not officially retired, still managed to achieve 30 international caps for Italy and have a prolific spell with Villarreal. It could have been worse, but imagine how much he’d have achieved injury-free.
2005-06 – Darron Gibson
Admittedly the bar is not set particularly high, but Gibson went on to have the best United career of his predecessors on this list, winning a league title and two League Cups.
But the midfielder has somewhat gone off the rails since leaving the Red Devils in 2012, twice pleading guilty to drink driving offences plus a car crash couple of seasons at Sunderland. In fairness, his drunken rant about his own teammates in 2017 was pretty hilarious.
After a short spell at Wigan, Gibson was snapped up by Salford City in 2020. Despite being re-signed after his Salford contract expired, Gibson hasn’t played since breaking his leg in October 2020.
2006-07 – Craig Cathcart
Cathcart went on to establish himself as a reliable Premier League regular with Watford, and bedrock of the Northern Ireland defence, but never made a senior appearance for United.
He was, however, given the honour of being one of the many United players sent on loan to Royal Antwerp.
2007-08 – Danny Welbeck
Dat Guy, innit?
2008-09 – Federico Macheda
If only someone had written about how Macheda’s career has panned out. Oh, right…
2009-10 – Will Keane
The twin brother of Everton defender and another former United academy product in Michael, Keane played a handful of matches for United’s first team, but his career has been blighted by injuries.
The striker seems to have found his level in League One – the six goals he scored for Ipswich in 2019-20 and 10 for Wigan in 2020-21 represent the biggest haul of his career.
2010-11 – Ryan Tunnicliffe
Tunnicliffe’s father won £10,000 when his son made his Manchester United debut against Newcastle in 2012, but the midfielder made just one more appearance for the club before being signed by his former coach Rene Muelensteen at Fulham.
He went on to become a regular in the Championship for Millwall but made headlines for the wrong reasons, admitting to drink driving while still a youngster at United and receiving a two-match ban in 2015 for a tweet in which he called Patrick Bamford “a sausage boy”.
Tunnicliffe currently turns out for second-tier Luton Town.
2011-12 – Mats Moller Daehli
A player that’s extremely familiar with current United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who signed Daehli for both Molde and Cardiff – with the Red Devils interested in re-signing the midfielder upon his return to England.
Like many of Solskjaer’s signings for the Welsh outfit, things didn’t work out, despite him being described as “the most naturally gifted footballer the Bluebirds have had on their books since the emergence of a young Aaron Ramsey” by Wales Online sports editor Paul Abbandonato in 2014.
The Norway international now turns out on loan for German second-tier outfit 1. FC Nurnburg, after spells with Freiburg and St. Pauli, having recently turned his loan from Genk into a permanent deal.
2012-13 – Ben Pearson
There was plenty of hype around Pearson during Louis van Gaal’s tenure in the Old Trafford hot seat, with the Manchester Evening News comparing the midfielder to Paul Scholes in a 2014 profile.
The former England youth international ultimately never made the grade with the Red Devils but impressed on loan at Barnsley in League One, earning himself a permanent move to Preston, where he established himself in the Championship.
Pearson moved to Bournemouth in 2021, becoming the most ‘Bournemouth-sounding’ player in recorded history.
2013-14 – James Wilson
It seems an awful long time ago Wilson scored twice on his United debut under Ryan Giggs.
Luckily, the striker is fondly remembered by the United legend who snapped him up for Salford City. The eight goals he scored in 2020-21 represent the most prolific season in his career.
2014-15 – Axel Tuanzebe
A name you will often see accompanying very excitable tweets from United fans, Tuanzebe saw his reputation grow during a successful loan spell at Aston Villa a few years back.
He remains a hard one to pin down. Take this season for example; his first Champions League start? A victory away at PSG. His first Premier League start? A home loss to Sheffield United.
Tuanzebe still, just about, represents the future.
2015-16 – Marcus Rashford
This one has gone slightly better than Paul Tierney.
2016-17 – Angel Gomes
The youngest player to win the Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year award and the youngest player to appear for United’s first team since Duncan Edwards when he made his debut against Crystal Palace in May 2017.
The future seemed bright but Gomes rejected the offer of a contract extension with United and joined Lille in 2020, who sent him out on loan to Boavista.
After an eye-catching season in Portugal, there’s every chance United will regret letting Gomes slip through the net.
2017-18 – Tahith Chong
Chong is more than just a memorable haircut – he’s a winger of immense potential.
One of his first United appearances came in that Champions League comeback in the Parc des Princes, but Chong found further appearances hard to come by.
He’s spent this season on loan; first at Werder Bremen, then with Club Brugge.
Tahith Chong making it look easy for Club Brugge 🔥pic.twitter.com/PYMHAzwi6I
— MUHQ News (@MUHQNews) February 3, 2021
2018-19: Mason Greenwood
2019-20: Anthony Elanga
The most recent recipient of the award, Elanga is highly rated by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and made his long-awaited debut as a heavily-rotated XI lost 2-1 to Leicester.
The Swedish winger subsequently played all 90 minutes and scored in a 2-1 victory over Wolves in the final Premier League outing of the 2020-21 campaign. You’d imagine there’s plenty more to come.
2020-21: Shola Shoretire
Born in Newcastle in 2004, it seems like there’s a genuine chance he was named after Magpies cult hero Shola Ameobi. We’re going to tell ourselves that’s the case, anyway.
By all accounts, Shoretire had already caught the eye as a prodigious talent before his 10th birthday, and he joined United at the age of nine following a brief spell with City.
It’s continued to be a rapid rise from there; he doesn’t turn 18 until next February but his stellar performances for the Under-23s in the Premier League 2 (10 goals and five assists in 2020-21) resulted in Solskjaer rewarding him with a couple of Premier League cameos off the bench for the first team.