In Depth

Nicky Butt taking over Man Utd academy is good news for Giggs

Have Old Trafford's bosses hinted at their managerial plans by asking former player to rebuild the youth system?

Manchester United have appointed former player Nicky Butt as head of their revamped youth academy in an attempt to re-establish the club's reputation for developing young talent.

Butt, a member of the hallowed "Class of 92" alongside Ryan Giggs, David Beckham Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers, was already on the staff as a coach of the under-19 team and his appointment is a clear attempt to give "the ailing youth set-up some identity", says Jack Gaughan of Mail Online.

The former player said it was a "privilege" and "huge honour" to take over the role, but it is not a job for the faint-hearted, argues Gaughan.

"The academy structure needs a serious shift in culture," he says. "Deciding that Butt was the man to take over from Brian McClair has taken 12 months... That delay bred uncertainty and offers weight to the idea that, at this moment in time, their academy is an afterthought."

While United's academy has stagnated, other clubs - Manchester City in particular - have invested heavily in youth. "United cannot fail to have been embarrassed at the children of Phil Neville, Robin van Persie, Andy Cole and Darren Fletcher opting for City in recent years," adds Gaughan.

United have "slipped alarmingly behind their rivals in recent years" when it comes to developing young talent, agrees The Sun. In the Under-18 Premier League Northern Division, United are 11th out of 12 clubs, 33 points adrift of leaders Man City and lagging behind the likes of Wolves, Derby and Blackburn. They were also hammered 5-1 at home by Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup.

It has even been claimed that some age-group sides have had to forfeit games as they were unable to field a team because of players making up the numbers in the club's other sides.

United's decision has been praised in the city. The Manchester Evening News says Butt required some persuading to take the job but is the ideal candidate. "Manchester-born, hard-working, humble and talented, he is the blueprint of what he's now trying to find," it says.

"Butt, who has been at Old Trafford since he was a schoolboy, can help safeguard United's identity... If anyone can identify a player destined to reach the top, then it's him."

The appointment could also be seen as a shot in the arm for his old teammate Giggs, who hopes to [4] succeed present boss Louis van Gaal as first team manager at Old Trafford.

At present, Giggs is seen as one of the favourites to take over as coach this summer. To have a former teammate recently installed in such a significant position will strengthen his position and would appear to indicate that the United hierarchy are increasingly concerned with the club's long-term future.

The other contender for manager, Jose Mourinho, is a pragmatic leader with a record of engendering loyalty in his players but little history of developing young players.

Butt and Giggs would be far more likely to develop a working relationship that ensures the famous Old Trafford production line of talent begins churning out stars once again.

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