Happy anniversary to United's Class of '92
The Class of '92 earned that collective name by winning the FA Youth Cup for Manchester United in May of that year. But for some of its scholars, their journey through one of English football's most fertile youth systems officially began 10 months earlier - on 8 July 1991.
According to an archived copy of the club's yearbook, that was the date on which David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes commenced their trainee contracts under the tutelage of the late, great youth coach Eric Harrison - who can be seen below with his prodigies, in a scene captured several seasons later.
Also in the photo are Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville, who are regarded as integral Class of '92 members too, even if the latter was actually captain of the 1995 Youth Cup-winning side. The line-up in our image below is completed on the right by Terry Cooke, who also helped Harrison's young Reds to triumph in 1995 but didn't quite manage to scale the same heights with United as his very famous peers.
Beckham, Butt, Neville and Scholes may be the quartet who achieved club legend status but the class register of 8 July 1991 features some other recognisable names.
Ben Thornley, now a regular pundit on MUTV, also started his traineeship that day, as did another familiar face in today's sports media - BBC broadcaster Robbie Savage. Like another of their contemporaries, Keith Gillespie, they went on to amass many appearances with other football clubs when their formative stints with United came to an end.
Whether they remained as Reds to win first-team silverware under Sir Alex Ferguson or moved on to pastures new, the education that our intake of 1991 received at The Cliff training ground from Harrison - and other coaches such as the former players Nobby Stiles, Brian Kidd and Jim Ryan - stood them in great stead for the many seasons ahead.
The fact that eight of the 14 trainees who signed on 8 July 1991 went on to make their first-team debut for United, especially in a high-stakes period when the Reds were either winning or narrowly missing out on the Premier League, is testimony enough to the club's ability to develop young talent.
But when you consider that four of them would accumulate a total of more than 2,000 senior appearances and win multiple league titles, FA Cups and the Champions League, it makes the seemingly mundane administrative activity that took place 30 years ago today all the more significant.
TRAINEES SIGNED ON 8 JULY 1991
David Beckham - 394 first-team games / 85 goals
Karl Brown - 0/0
Nicky Butt - 387 games / 26 goals
Chris Casper - 7 games / 0 goals
Craig Dean - 0/0
Keith Gillespie - 14 games / 2 goals
Gary Neville - 602 games / 7 goals
John O'Kane - 7 games / 0 goals
Mark Rawlinson - 0/0
Joe Roberts - 0/0
Steven Riley - 0/0
Robbie Savage - 0/0
Paul Scholes - 718 games / 155 goals
Ben Thornley - 14 games / 0 goals
GARY NEVILLE'S YOUTH-TEAM MEMORIES
"The football we had been playing in our first year at The Cliff was genuinely unbelievable. I look back now and remember certain things we were doing and it was football that you would see at a mature, high level.
"I remember The Cliff being full of people who were there to watch us. Anybody could walk in on the day without paying and it was full. The first team would watch us too.
"The football was unreal, and that was without Giggsy most of the time because he was already up in the first team. When he came back down to the youth team we got even better. We were unreal, and we didn't even have a centre forward most of the time. That was the one thing we didn't have.
"Giggsy came in and took it to a completely different level. Midfield was Becks, Butty, Simon Davies, Ben Thornley, Keith Gillespie… Scholesy wasn't even in the team in that first year! Being part of that team was a privilege."
"I still think back to the day I got offered schoolboy apprenticeship forms. My family and I only thought I was going to get offered another year, and they offered me a four-year contract: 14 to 16 on schoolboy terms with the promise of going full-time [in July 1991] from 16 to 18.
"That moment led me into the most incredibly testing environment. The manager was demanding, but long before we worked with him, we were coached by Eric Harrison and Nobby Stiles. And by God, they were both demanding!
"Eric's motto was: toughen up. Nobby was the same. Kiddo was the one who made you feel 10 feet tall with his encouragement, but even he wasn't prone to going over the top. He just knew the right time to make you feel better.
"All you needed from Eric or from Sir Alex was one line: 'Well done, son.' When you hear that, you just think: 'I've done alright here.'"