Football: Manchester United's class of '92

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The Independent Online
EVEN BEFORE Manchester United won the FA Youth Cup in 1992 rumours were circulating in football that this was a crop to compare with the Busby Babes, who won the first competition in 1953.

United's first team had just been pipped of the title by Leeds making it 25 seasons of sorrow since the championship had been won and it was in search of consolation that 14,681 went to Old Trafford to watch the second leg of the final against Crystal Palace.

They got it via a 3-2 victory (6-3 on aggregate) and with it an invitation to the birth of greatness. The Class of '92 was just that.

Normally a youth side will yield one first-team player, two if the club is lucky, but of the XI who started for United on May 15 1992, four became England internationals - Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary Neville and Nicky Butt - while the two substitutes, Keith Gillespie (now Blackburn) and Robbie Savage (Leicester), have been capped by Northern Ireland and Wales respectively.

Of the others, Ben Thornley (transferred to Huddersfield), Chris Casper (Reading), Kevin Pilkington (Port Vale), John O'Kane (Everton), Simon Davies (Luton) and Colin McKee (Kilmarnock) made it to the first team and only fullback George Switzer who was given a free transfer to Darlington at the end of the 1992-3 season and is now playing in non-League football in the Manchester area, was never picked by Alex Ferguson. Two other members of the youth team squad, Raphael Burke and Andy Noone, were released.

Virtually all the team of '92 were eligible for the Youth Cup the following year and, surprisingly, they failed to win it even though another two future England internationals, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville, played in the final. Leeds won 4-1 on aggregate before crowds of 30,562 at Old Trafford and 31,037 at Elland Road.

Manchester United's 1992 youth team. Back row (left to right): Raphael Burke, Gary Neville, Simon Davis, John O'Kane, Andy Noone, Nicky Butt, Ben Thornley. Front row: Robbie Savage, David Beckham, George Switzer, Keith Gillespie, Paul Scholes, Chris Casper Manchester Evening News