Analysis covering over 73,000 players from 32 different leagues revealed the Championship club has received £37,582,000 in transfer fees for graduates of its development programme since 2010.
That figure puts them ahead of Leeds (£29.8m), Hull City (£18.3m) and Huddersfield Town across the same period. Neighbours Sheffield Wednesday are said to have recouped £193,000 on their investment in home grown talent, according to researchers working on behalf of Online Money Advisor.
Commenting on the findings, Ryan Baldi, author of The Dream Factory - Inside the Make-or Break World of Football Academies, said: “A productive youth academy can be a tremendous resource to a top-level football club, providing low-cost players who are already integrated into the club’s ethos and methodology and who tend to receive a greater degree of patience from fans. But a club can be extremely successful at the highest levels without a strong relationship between its academy and its first team, or indeed without an academy at all.”
Using data from publicly available sources, OMA’s experts calculated that the sales of Aaron Ramsdale and David Brooks, to Arsenal and AFC Bournemouth respectively, provided United with the most profitable returns on their investment in youth. Both of those deals also featured in the top four of the region’s most lucrative packages, although Leeds dominated the top 10.
United’s hierarchy stated bringing players through their system features at the heart of the “strategic vision” which prompted Paul Heckingbottom’s appointment as manager last month. Previously their under-23’s coach, he replaced Slavisa Jokanovic who was described as a “coach” by chairman Yusuf Giansiracusa during Heckingbottom’s official unveiling.
Stressing that the focus must remain on delivering results this season, Heckingbottom’s side climbed to 10th in the table following Saturday’s win over Cardiff City. They return to action with a home game against Queens Park Rangers next week.
Iliman Ndiaye, who made his debut before last season’s relegation from the Premier League, was omitted from the squad which triumphed 3-2 in the Welsh capital for tactical reasons but has already featured on 14 occasions this term. Fellow youngster Femi Seriki is scheduled to become eligible for selection in January after being recalled from a spell on loan with United’s sister club Beerschot while Daniel Jebbison has been placed with Burton Albion in order to progress his footballing education. The striker has been nominated for the PFA Fans’ Player of the Month award for November and was recently the subject of interest from Everton, having scored when United triumphed at Goodison Park before bowing out of the top-flight.
“Most clubs will profess that developing first-team players is the primary aim of their academy,” Baldi said. “At the same time, though, most academies are targeted against the amount of money they must generate through player sales.”
“In researching my book, The Dream Factory, I asked every academy manager with whom I spoke to list the hierarchy of their priorities,” Baldi added. “All classed the development of first-team-ready players as paramount, yet all confessed the need to also generate funds to make their academies self-sustainable and profitable.”