How Manchester City's Conveyor Belt Of Talent Has Left Manchester United Standing

Shea Charles is set for an £11m move to Southampton having made just one senior appearance for Man City
12:00, 08 Jul 2023

Manchester City have been lightyears ahead of Manchester United for quite some time now. It has been measured by their success on the pitch, the facilities, and now it is becoming clearer that they are taking over the academy landscape.

The ‘noisy neighbours’ have been making a racket for over a decade, winning 20 trophies in the past 12 years. In that time, they have been churning out a lot of young talent thanks to the elite academy they have developed on their state-of-the-art Etihad Campus.

Phil Foden is the biggest star they have developed in recent years but let’s not forget they forged Jadon Sancho’s path before he joined the red side of Manchester via Borussia Dortmund. Then there are the likes of Romeo Lavia, Cole Palmer, Brahim Diaz, Gavin Bazunu and Taylor Harwood-Bellis to name a few.

They are developing players ready for senior football in batches and because of how well their academy system is run, and the talent it harnesses, they are commanding big fees for the stars of tomorrow who haven’t had much of a taste for senior football.


Lavia, for example, joined Southampton last summer for an initial £10.5 million having made just two senior appearances for Pep Guardiola’s side in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup. The midfielder was highly rated within the club and you can understand why after the good impression he made in a Saints side that was relegated from the Premier League.

Arsenal and Liverpool are both interested in the young Belgian, and Southampton should turn a pretty profit on a player they signed 12 months ago. City themselves have a buy-back clause but should they not make a move to re-sign Lavia, they will receive 20% from his Southampton exit.

Southampton are now also set to sign another youngster from City, with Shea Charles reportedly closing in on an £11 million deal. The 19-year-old made his Premier League debut against Brentford in May and he is another youngster held in high regard at the Etihad Stadium. He has already made eight appearances for the Northern Ireland national team and is likely to be another superstar to emerge from City’s academy


Across the city, United recently sold Ethan Laird to Birmingham City for around £750,000 and Zidane Iqbal to FC Utrecht for £850,000. There is such a huge difference in the fees the two clubs are getting for their young talent.

Laird, unlike the two City graduates, had gained two years of valuable experience in the Championship with Swansea City, AFC Bournemouth and Queens Park Rangers, and many people were so surprised to see him go for such a low fee. Many avid Championship viewers have labelled the move as a steal for Birmingham.

These recent transfers highlight the power shift that has been occurring in Manchester over the years, with City’s infrastructure surpassing that of United’s. This doesn’t mean that United’s longstanding tradition of having homegrown talent breaking into and flourishing in the team is coming to an end. It means that they now have more competition with City for the best young talent in the local area than they used to.

For years United had a strong relationship with Fletcher Moss Rangers FC, who bequeathed them the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Danny Welbeck. Nowadays, you will see just as many Man City coaches there looking to snap up youngsters for the academy. With the gulf between the two clubs right now on and off the pitch, there is a strong chance that City will start to hoover up all the best young talent in the north west. Add in the fact they have a significant partnership with the city's St Bede's College which sees a steady production line of talent assured top-level schooling and they have taken the development of young superstars to a new level.

Judging by the pedigree of the players City are developing, able to step up to senior football with ease, any young footballer would see City as the perfect environment for their footballing education. While United's run of having included an academy product in every matchday squad since October 30, 1937 shows a longer-lasting relationship with the area's greatest young stars, it is their local rivals who are setting the standard.

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