Manchester United’s academy continues to produce stars like Greenwood and Rashford, but which big talents failed to make the grade?

Manchester United are renowned for promoting talented youngsters in their first-team – but not all academy graduates make the grade.

The Class of ’92 are a prime example of that, setting the Red Devils up to dominate English football on all fronts for many years, while others from that crop failed to feature.

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Manchester United wonderkid Mason Greenwood has been superb this season and is an example of United’s brilliant academy system
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While United have struggled to adjust since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, one thing that hasn’t changed is their conveyor belt of young talent.

A new collection of kids have become regulars under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Scott McTominay and Brandon Williams all set for big futures with United.

Behind every success story there are many failures. After all, not everything turns out how we thought it would in life.

Below, talkSPORT.com looks at five United prospects who failed to live up to the hype at Old Trafford.


Ravel Morrison

Dubbed by Alex Ferguson as ‘the best kid you’ll ever see’, the controversial midfielder was an integral part of United’s youth side in the early parts of the last decade.

While his football ability can never be called into question, his work ethic and attitude were far from exemplary at Old Trafford as he trained alongside Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard.

The Red Devils cut their ties with Morrison in 2012 as he joined West Ham, but his career never took off there either.

Loan spells with Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff followed, with Morrison’s contract in east London eventually terminated.

Serie A giants Lazio were his next stop but it didn’t work out for Morrison in Italy, or in Mexico with Atlas, and he also failed to settle during a brief stint with Swedish side Ostersund last year.

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Ravel Morrison was labelled as the next big thing by Sir Alex Ferguson
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It was then Morrison was offered a lifeline – and a big one at that.

When Sheffield United signed him last summer, there were more than one or two eyebrows raised at Bramall Lane.

Blades boss Chris Wilder insisted it was ‘a good fit for the player and the club’ when the signing was confirmed.

However, with the Yorkshire outfit exceeding beyond all expectations in the English top-flight, Morrison was only able to make one competitive appearance before being shipped out on loan to Championship side Middlesbrough for the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign.

Adnan Januzaj

The Belgian was tipped to be the next big thing at United, inheriting Ryan Giggs’ iconic no.11 shirt after his breakthrough season under David Moyes in the 2013/14 campaign.

Januzaj was unable to fulfil that potential at Old Trafford, consequently falling out of favour under Moyes’ successor Louis van Gaal and also Jose Mourinho.

“I always knew I had the quality to play for Manchester United. I know what I am capable of,” he told Sky Sports News.

“I didn’t really get a chance because at the time he [Mourinho] probably wanted more experienced players with names.”

A season-long loan to Borussia Dortmund during the 2015/16 season was cut short because of a lack of playing time, before another poor temporary spell at Sunderland the year after.

He has, however, restored his reputation at Real Sociedad and looks to be heading into the prime years of his career.

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Adnan Januzaj was unable to become a first-team regular at Old Trafford
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Will Keane

Twin brother of Everton and England defender Michael, Will Keane represented the Three Lions at youth level from Under-16 to Under-21 level.

Injuries halted the early parts of Keane’s promising career, and it always felt like the striker was forever being loaned away from Old Trafford when he wasn’t sidelined.

While he impressed for United’s reserve team, then managed by Solskjaer, he made just three appearances for the first team.

In truth the horrendous knee injury he suffered shortly after making his debut, which ruled him out of action for over a year, was something he was unable to bounce back from.

Since leaving United in August 2016, Keane spent three years at Hull City before joining current side Ipswich Town last year after a initial productive loan spell.

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Will Keane has endured a torrid time with injuries during his career to date
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Federico Macheda

Aged just 17, he burst onto the scene when he scored a stunning last-minute winner in a 3-2 victory against Aston Villa in April 2009.

The goal was a decisive factor in United’s season, setting them on their way to beating arch-nemeses Liverpool to the Premier League title.

The striker followed that up with a strike in a 2-1 win at Sunderland the following week, finding the net just 46 seconds after replacing Dimitar Berbatov at the Stadium of Light.

A bumper four-year deal deservedly followed later that year for the Italian, but Macheda failed to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him thereafter.

A loan move to Sampdoria in June 2011, where he failed to register a single goal in any of his 14 appearances, was a major cause for concern.

A temporary switch to QPR in January 2012 was also ended prematurely owing to an ankle injury, with the striker eventually moving permanently to Cardiff in 2014 after several other temporary spells.

Now aged 28, Macheda is currently playing in Greece for Panathinaikos and has enjoyed a very productive campaign to date – scoring 12 times in 23 appearances.

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Federico Macheda burst on to the scene at United as a 17-year-old against Aston Villa in 2009
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Reece James

No, not that one.

The defender scored twice in a thumping pre-season friendly win against LA Galaxy in 2014, but that was as good as it for for James – making just one competitive appearance for the club in total.

Loan moves to Carlisle, Rotherham and Huddersfield followed, before the defender sealed a permanent switch to Wigan in 2015.

After a three-year stint at the DW Stadium, James spent last season on Sunderland’s books.

He signed a contract extension on Wearside last June – but just a week later bizarrely signed for Doncaster.

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Reece James made just one competitive appearance for the Red Devils
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