Manchester United's three Golden Boy winners, and who could be our next?

The 20-man shortlist for the Golden Boy award was announced on Tuesday. Three Manchester United have won it since it began in 2003, but none are among this year’s nominees. United In Focus looks at all three and considers who might be the next to be crowned the continent’s Golden Boy.

Wayne Rooney (2004)

Within months of signing for Manchester United, Rooney was Europe’s Golden Boy in every sense of the word. He didn’t need the award, then in its second year of existence, to prove that. Rooney had burst onto the scene with a famous goal against Arsenal in the blue of Everton. Sir Alex Ferguson forked out a fortune to bring him to Manchester. It was one of his best signings.

Rooney ran riot in United red for more than a decade and, though controversial, is one of the Premier League’s finest players. At the time of the award he was a marauding, scrappy centre-forward with sensational technique and endearing anger. A cheeky chappy turned into an aggressive scorer of goals.

Photo by Chris Coleman/Manchester United via Getty Images

On and off the pitch, certain actions will forever tarnish Rooney’s reputation. However, few teenagers have had such an impact like Rooney.


Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo turned out as far better players but Rooney was so many steps ahead of them as he took European football by a storm.

Anderson (2008)

Ever black or white in their judgement of players, the British press will always regard Anderson as a ‘flop’. But he had some serious talent. Sir Alex Ferguson signed the Brazilian midfielder for £20million in 2007. He’d shown his qualities for Gremio, in the Brazilian league, and then FC Porto. At both clubs he played in attacking midfield, scoring goals and even earning a reputation as the ‘new Ronaldinho’. That was shown to be far from the truth.

Fergie moved Anderson deeper in midfield, hoping he could use his ability to control games from the centre of the park. Anderson had some good performances despite being blighted by injuries. As a 19-year-old he stepped up to take a penalty in the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow and delivered. Few of his age would have done so and it was a testament to his character.

Many at United loved Anderson, who was a fun, jovial player. He left a lot to be desired as a player, though. Perhaps Anderson’s United career wouldn’t have ended so disappointingly if he’d been kept as an attacking midfielder. Or if Paul Scholes had been quite so brilliant at the base of midfield. He ended up with an eight-year career at Old Trafford, though that included a failed loan spell at Fiorentina.

In truth, Anderson will always be remembered for his song rather than his ability.

Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Mark Leech Sports Photography/Getty Images

Anthony Martial (2015)

A huge transfer fee and a sensational match-winning debut goal against Liverpool meant Anthony Martial would always be in the conversation for the award.

It wasn’t just his signing for United that secured his legacy as one of Europe’s Golden Boys though. At AS Monaco he had impressed, including in Champions League fixtures. Martial delivered for Louis van Gaal’s United once his Deadline Day move manifested and the pressure was on.

A vital brace against Southampton followed his debut goal against Liverpool. Martial was lethal from the left-wing and van Gaal’s United would have been in serious trouble were it not for his exploits.

The only Golden Boy still at United is Anthony Martial. In fact, he’s one of the only players at the club to have received an award of this stature at all. Set to return from injury soon, he has big expectations to fill. United need him to find the form of 2015/16 that won him the Golden Boy award.

Who could be next United Golden Boy?

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United have seen more of their players (3) win the Golden Boy award than any other club and Paul Pogba was Golden Boy while at Juventus. So who will be the next to receive the honour in the club’s famous shirt?

Mason Greenwood will be tipped by many fans. He’s enjoyed a good start to his first-team career at United and has been described by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as ‘one of the best natural finishers’ he’s ever seen. He’ll need a big 12 months to be in contention, though. The award normally goes to someone who has suddenly come through and made an impact. Greenwood would have to force his way into the United first-team regularly.

Perhaps the next Golden Boy at United could be Jadon Sancho, though. The English winger, who is on the 20-man shortlist, is constantly linked with a move to Old Trafford. It would be a surprise if he wasn’t one of the key contenders for this year’s award. If Solskjaer is given the funds and Sancho is convinced by United’s credentials, he could arrive at the club as a Golden Boy. It seems unlikely, though, with the Reds currently in free fall.

Just like a Premier League title, it seems it will be some years before United see of their players win this award again, despite the great talent in the club’s academy.

Just like a Premier League title, it seems it will be some years before United see of their players win this award again, despite the great talent in the club’s academy.

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Life-long Manchester United fan with a strong interest in the club's academy. Host of the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. First game at Old Trafford was the 7-1 rout of AS Roma in 2007.