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Manchester United was among the academy graduates to play in the Premier League
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Manchester United may have finished only sixth in the table last season but they comfortably retained their position as the leading developers of Premier League talent.

Twenty players who finished their youth-team football with United featured in the 2018-19 top flight, matching the previous term’s tally.

They combined to play over 27,000 minutes, keeping United nearly 10,000 minutes clear of nearest challengers Tottenham. Elsewhere, Southampton’s graduates emerged to take third place in the rankings and Portuguese clubs were also on the rise.

Manchester United was among the academy graduates to play in the Premier League

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Manchester United was among the academy graduates to play in the Premier League 

No change at the top

For the third season in a row, it has been recorded where academy every Premier League player graduated from and the numbers have been tallied up – for those who moved clubs as a youth player, the last academy they played in is the one credited.

United have been top all three years and while their graduates’ playing time has dropped each season – from 44,055 in the first year to 32,157 in 2017-18 and 27,395 in the latest study, they remain comfortably clear of the pack.

Just over a third of their total came from members of their own squad, led by Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, while Joshua King, Michael Keane and Craig Cathcart played over 3,000 minutes for Bournemouth, Everton and Watford respectively and Burnley got over 4,400 minutes from Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley and Robbie Brady.

Craig Cathcart was another former United academy product to play in the top flight

Craig Cathcart was another former United academy product to play in the top flight

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Craig Cathcart was another former United academy product to play in the top flight

Tottenham’s tally dropped from 22,314 to 17,903, meaning they took just 351 minutes out of United’s lead which now stands at 9,492 minutes.

Sixteen Southampton academy products played in last season’s top flight, including nine in their own team – though United full-back Luke Shaw and Fulham’s Calum Chambers made the biggest contributions to their combined 15,964 minutes.

That lifted Saints six places to third, narrowly ahead of Chelsea with Manchester City completing the top five.

Brooks adds to Blades’ proud record

Sheffield United have been consistent over-achievers in the study, placing eighth in 2016-17 while finishing as League One champions and then fifth as a Championship club the following year.

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The same six players – Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, Phil Jagielka, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Matt Lowton and Kyle Naughton – accounted for those two impressive finishes, but Naughton’s relegation with Swansea and Jagielka’s reduced playing time at Everton raised doubts this time around.

Enter David Brooks. The Wales midfielder signed for Bournemouth last summer and became an integral part of their Premier League plans, playing 2,400 minutes and in the process helping keep the Blades almost 300 minutes ahead of seventh-placed Liverpool.

With Chris Wilder’s side having secured promotion for the new season – and then re-signed Jagielka – they could place even higher in 12 months’ time.

Special mention this year should also go to Coventry, who jumped 113 places to reach the top 20 after James Maddison and Cyrus Christie, with Leicester and Fulham respectively, joined Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson as top-flight regulars.

David Brooks played for Bournemouth and adds to Sheffield United's proud record

David Brooks played for Bournemouth and adds to Sheffield United's proud record

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David Brooks played for Bournemouth and adds to Sheffield United’s proud record

Turning Portuguese

In the previous years of the study, Dutch sides Ajax and Feyenoord have been the best-represented sides from outside England but last season saw a shift to Portugal – thanks largely to promoted Wolves and their link-up with agent Jorge Mendes.

Benfica and Sporting Lisbon sandwiched ninth-placed West Ham to round out the top 10 in the study – the only 10 teams to crack the five-figure barrier, with Sporting at 10,127 minutes to 11th-placed Barcelona’s 9,712. Ajax followed in 12th, with Feyenoord 18th.

Wolves pair Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro – along with Everton’s Andre Gomes – supplemented the efforts of fellow Benfica graduates Ederson and Bernardo Silva at Manchester City, while Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho are products of Sporting’s academy.

Joao Moutinho is one of a number of Sporting Lisbon's former youngsters in the top flight

Joao Moutinho is one of a number of Sporting Lisbon's former youngsters in the top flight

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Joao Moutinho is one of a number of Sporting Lisbon’s former youngsters in the top flight

McNeil ploughs a lone furrow

That reliance on imports sees Wolves feature among the lower-ranked Premier League clubs when it comes to developing talent – though Burnley trail the pack.

Six top-flight clubs saw their graduates play less than 4,000 Premier League minutes last term, with the Clarets out on their own with just 1,683 – all from their winger Dwight McNeil.

Bournemouth got 3,375 minutes from five players and Newcastle 3,492 from four to also rank below Wolves, whose 3,531 minutes were shared between in-house midfield prospect Morgan Gibbs-White, Cardiff winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Crystal Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

Cardiff themselves produced only two of last season’s Premier League players, their own Joe Ralls and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, now at Juventus, combining for 3,558 minutes. Huddersfield’s total of 3,771 came entirely from their own players led by Phillip Billing and Tommy Smith.

Dwight McNeil was the sole representative for Burnley in the Premier League in this study
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Dwight McNeil was the sole representative for Burnley in the Premier League in this study

Dwight McNeil was the sole representative for Burnley in the Premier League in this study