Manchester United are a club famed for their production of youth talent, having enjoyed notable success throughout their history by promoting from within, with the Busby Babes and the Class of ’92 the most prominent examples of that impressive record at Academy level.
For every Gary Neville, Paul Scholes or Marcus Rashford, however, there are those who failed to make the grade or simply fell through the cracks in the Red Devils’ youth system, with the Football League littered with former United prospects who never made an impact for the club at senior level.
In most cases, the Old Trafford outfit have rarely been left to rue their decision to let players depart at a young age, with few academy assets having come back to haunt them over the years.
One such figure who may well be a source of regret is that of Jack Harrison, with the Englishman having joined the club at the age of eight, before departing for life in the United States six years later.
The current Leeds United star has recently revealed he had a “sliding doors moment” at the age of 14 as he opted for pastures new, having been fearful of joining the lengthy list of talent that had failed to force their way into the first-team reckoning.
While it was the Stoke-born gem’s decision to depart, United may well be ruing their failure at not doing more to keep him at the club, with the fleet-footed winger having since gone on to prove his quality in the Premier League.
Having sought out life in America in his early teens, the 5 foot 9 menace was subsequently snapped up by MLS side New York City FC in 2016, going on to register 24 goal contributions in just 61 games for the club, while notably impressing teammate Frank Lampard who dubbed him a “revelation” at the time.
Would Jack Harrison have been a success at United?
Frustratingly for those at United, Harrison was then signed by rivals Manchester City in January 2018, before joining Championship side Middlesbrough on loan for the remainder of that season.
While that loan move failed to prove fruitful as the dynamic forward made just four appearances, his subsequent switch to Elland Road has showcased just what a talent he truly is, having signed on an £11m permanent deal last summer after three successive loan spells with the Yorkshire side.
That stint has seen the 25-year-old register 54 goal contributions in 172 games in all competitions, having proved vital in firing the club back into the top-flight under former boss Marcelo Bielsa during the 2019/20 season, scoring six goals and laying on eight assists in that triumphant campaign.
The step up to life in the top tier has since been a smooth one for the “explosive” gem – as dubbed by current boss Jesse Marsch – with 17 goals and 12 assists to his name in the Premier League thus far, netting eight in each of the last two seasons.
Such has been his impressive form of late, the £15k-per-week winger was even the subject of interest from Newcastle United over the summer, with the Magpies believed to have made an offer in the region of £34m for his signature.
That bid was swiftly rebuffed with a more recent report suggesting that Leeds will likely demand around £50m if they are to part ways any time soon, with it no doubt a great source of frustration that the Red Devils let such a valuable asset leave for nothing just over a decade ago.