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Manchester United ex-academy players best starting XI

| 21.09.2014

Manchester United (14/1 to lift the Premier League) hit headlines this summer by moving on a crop of highly-rated homegrown players.

Debate centered around whether the Red Devils had sold their soul by sacrificing academy trained starlets to bring in blockbuster names such as Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria.

United, who have one of the most productive youth systems in the world, are no stranger to shipping out potential, however, and in most cases it turns out to be beneficial for both club and player.

After a Leicester City side, packed with Red Devils academy products, schooled the Old Trafford outfit, Coral creates a starting XI of United-grown old boys that have gone on to carve out top-flight careers.

Ron-Robert Zieler
Hannover number one Zieler trained with the Red Devils reserves from 2005-2010, but lost his position after breaking an arm. With his opportunities restricted, the Cologne-born keeper made the switch to Hannover and, after impressing in their youth set-up, never looked back. He has now made over 108 Bundesliga appearances.

Danny Simpson
Right back Simpson has already represented eight teams in as many seasons of first-team football, but enjoyed his football education with the Red Devils. Currently plying his trade in the Premier League with upstarts Leicester City, a career which has also encompassed stints at, and promotions with, Newcastle United, Sunderland and QPR is nothing to be sniffed at.

Ryan Shawcross
Stoke City skipper Shawcross, 26, is currently linked with a move to Premier League rivals Arsenal, and has earned this spot in our XI by being a rock in the Potters defence for eight seasons. The tough-tackling centre back only made two first-team outings for the Red Devils but has been a consistent force for Stoke, and should surpass 300 appearances for the club this term.

Gerard Pique
Faced with an almost of impossible task of securing game time ahead of Rio Ferdiand and Nemanja Vidic, Pique, who spent four years with United, returned to boyhood club Barcelona.

The Spain centre back seems to have been around forever and, at just 27, will likely go on to add to an impressive trophy collection that already includes one World Cup, one European Championship, one Premier League, three Champions Leagues and five La Liga titles.

Kieran Richardson
Versatile Richardson has carved out an impressive Premier League career since departing the Red Devils in 2007. Now starring for high-flying Aston Villa, the experienced and adaptable 29-year-old has also proven himself a useful asset for top-flight clubs such as Sunderland, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion.

Paul Pogba
Pogba has only seen his stock rise since leaving Old Trafford, going on to make 95 appearances for Italian giants Juventus, which makes him the biggest fish to slip through United’s net. The promising 21-year old midfielder has already lifted two Serie A trophies and, after impressing for France at the World Cup, is expected to go on to be one of the world’s best in his position.

Matty James
James, whose brother Reece still plays for United’s reserves, rejected a new deal at Old Trafford in 2012 and has finally made his Premier League debut on his own terms with Leicester.

Still only 23, a move to a bigger club could be in the works for the underrated midfield maestro, who was crowned the Foxes’ Young Player of the Season last term, helping them to achieve promotion to the top flight.

Danny Drinkwater
Box-to-box midfielder Drinkwater has spent four seasons with Leicester since leaving United and is a permanent fixture in the side, having established a successful partnership with fellow Red Devils graduate James.

Drinkwater shared the praise with his clubmate last campaign, after being named the Foxes’ Player of the Season, as the East Midlands club lifted the Championship title.

Fraizer Campbell
Experienced striker Campbell opened his account for new club Crystal Palace last time out, and will be hoping to make a permanent home for himself with the Eagles. The 27-year-old was highly-rated during his time as a United academy product, which included successful loan spells with Royal Antwerp and Hull City.

Campbell also enjoyed a brief stint at Tottenham, but suffered relegation with former club Cardiff City last season.

Giuseppe Rossi
Italy attacker Rossi joined United’s youth ranks fairly late, aged 17, but failed to break into the first-team consistently. After making just five first-team starts for United, the classy forward was offloaded to Spanish side Villarreal.

Despite bad luck with injures, Rossi has scored 113 goals in 264 career appearances. He now plies his trade for Fiorentina and netted 17 times for the Serie A team last term.

Danny Welbeck
Welbeck could yet be the biggest thorn in the Red Devils’ side as the Manchester club battle for a Champions League spot. The 23-year-old striker joined Arsenal in what was surprising summer switch, having played for United since he was just eight years old.

England forward Welbeck has been in prolific form since his Old Trafford exit, bagging a brace on international duty and providing a goal and an assist last time out for the Gunners, meaning he leads the line in our starting XI.

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Holly Thackeray

Holly is a member of the content team, and can often be found on the sports desk writing about favourite topics Serie A and East Asian footballing nations. A recent darts convert, she is also a fully-fledged member of Barney's Army and a proud Leeds-born Manchester United fan.