Seven Manchester United wonderkids who didn't quite make it

Manchester United have always produced a conveyor belt of academy talent but there are some young stars who didn’t fulfil their promising potential.

United’s burgeoning homegrown youngsters will always be compared to the iconic ‘Class of 92’ but there have been a number of players to have come through the ranks tipped for stardom.

There was no denying their talent, some were even tipped to become all-time greats, but due to a combination of injuries, poor attitude and lack of chances, the breakthrough never materialised.

Here are seven former academy players who bring a sense of what could have been every time there name is mentioned amongst United fans.

Ravel Morrison

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images


Sir Alex Ferguson branded Morrison’s shortcomings at United as the saddest case he had to deal with. United’s legendary manager told the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney that Morrison was the most talented player he had ever seen.

Coming through the United ranks alongside Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard, it was Morrison’s talent that stood out, but he has struggled to fulfil his promise.

Morrison was handed his first team United debut aged 17 in a League Cup tie against Wolves but made only two more substitute cup appearances for the Red Devils before Fergie opted against renewing his contract.

Off-field issues have hindered his development and that was a pivotal factor in United reluctantly deciding to part ways with their young star.

The 26-year-old, who draws comparisons with Paul Gascoigne, is now back in the Premier League with Sheffield United after having spells in the Championship, and experiencing a variation of different styles via Italy, Mexico and Sweden.

But is clear that Morrison still bleeds United red after he came out in support of Paul Scholes this week.

After the signing of Morrison, are the Blades set to snap up another of United’s previous high hopes?

Callum Gribbin

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Gribbin has been on trial at Sheffield United following his summer release from Manchester United.

The 20-year-old impressed during his time in the Red Devils academy, and with his quick feet and ability to glide past players, it seemed only a matter of time before he was going to get his first team breakthrough.

However, injuries hampered his development and with other promising talent coming through the ranks, United decided to part ways with the tricky winger.

Gribbin will be hoping that Chris Wilder gives him the same opportunity that Morrison received and can get his promising career back on track.

Zeki Fryers

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Fryers made his senior debut for United in a League Cup tie playing centre back alongside Michael Carrick against Leeds United in 2011.

The natural left-back went on to make six first team appearances for United, but he craved more game time and after going public regarding the uncertainty surrounding his future, Fergie grew frustrated with Fryers and his agent.

Fryers left in the summer but it wasn’t on amicable terms, he has since had spells at Standard Liege, Tottenham and Crystal Palace. He is now at Swindon Town.

If the 27-year-old would have stayed patient he may have got more chances to impress and staked his claim to become Patrice Evra’s long-term successor.

Federico Macheda

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Who could ever forget Macheda’s time in the sun, he will always be remembered for that phenomenal goal against Aston Villa in April 2009, which capped off a memorable comeback and gave United the momentum to go on and win the title.

The 28-year-old Italian followed up his curling winner against Villa with a goal at Sunderland, which got fans believing they had a star on their hands.

But he could only muster up two more United goals after that dream start, following his release in May 2014, he’s gone off the radar dramatically. Before he left permanently, there were loan spells with Sampdoria, QPR and Birmingham, among others. Cardiff, Nottingham Forest and Panathinaikos have been among the destinations since then.

Giuseppe Rossi

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There was real hope that United had found a gem in the little Italian after he was poached from Parma in 2004, but opportunities proved hard to come by.

Rossi scored four times in all competitions in 2005/06, before a terrible loan move to Newcastle brought no league goals in 2006/07.

Rossi left for Villareal in 2007 and that’s where his career really took off, he also scored 16 league goals in 21 Serie A appearances for Fiorentina in the 2013/14 season.

The 32-year-old has shown great determination to come back from a number of serious injuries, he had a period training with the United first team last season after being invited back to keep his fitness levels up whilst searching for a new club.

James Wilson

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

After a difficult season for United under David Moyes, when Ryan Giggs was put in temporary charge for the remaining games, he wanted to give some of the clubs youngsters an opportunity to lift the mood.

Wilson scored two goals in a 3-1 win against Hull City, in a game where he started alongside fellow academy stars Adnan Januzaj and Tom Lawrence.

The following season, Louis van Gaal signed Radamel Falcao on loan and Wilson found himself competing against the Colombian, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

Whilst out on loan at Derby County, Wilson sustained a major knee injury, and he now finds himself playing in Scotland for Aberdeen.

Adnan Januzaj

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Moyes didn’t believe that Wilfred Zaha was ready to shine at United, but he wasn’t afraid to throw Januzaj into the first team fold.

After a sensational brace against Sunderland, the young Belgian became United’s go to man in an ageing side that was in transition.

After the departure of Moyes and being handed Ryan Giggs’ number 11 shirt, Januzaj didn’t progress as many had hoped. He ended up playing 63 games for United in all competitions and scoring five goals, but a drastic loan spell at Borussia Dortmund which could have taken Januzaj to new heights was the beginning of the end.

He is how plying his trade for Real Sociedad and showcased the talent he possesses with a phenomenal curling effort against England at last years World Cup.

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Passionate Football fan that completed a NCTJ-accredited Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism in 2016.