As we look back at those individuals regarded as the world’s top young players in 2001, one struggled to retain a professional career while another became a Man United legend.
Under Erik ten Hag, Manchester United has maintained a tradition of developing and attracting some of the game’s most gifted young talents.
Rasmus Hojlund’s potential won’t be fully understood until a few years from now, but players like Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo appear to be genuine talents. United had a few young, talented players on their roster in 2001 who appeared to have a bright future.
Four of them, including one who was put above future United stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dimitar Berbatov in the top 100 young players FourFourTwo predicted would rule the world of football, made the list. Kaka, who was then a member of Sao Paulo and may have gone on to have the finest career of any player on the list, was ranked a pitiful 95th.
Kieran Richardson was four spaces in front. After spending the 2004–2005 season on loan at West Brom, the winger eventually switched positions and played left back when he moved from United to Sunderland in 2007.
He made 81 senior games for United and netted 11 goals throughout that time. He was then transferred to Fulham, Aston Villa, and Cardiff before retiring in 2016 with 264 Premier League appearances, two championships, and one FA Cup.
Four places above him was the little-known Ramon Calliste. The Welsh striker made the rarely trodden path of switching from United to Liverpool in 2006.
He went from Scunthorpe United to Cambridge City and then, at step 11 of the pyramid, West London Saracens after failing to make a senior appearance. Later on, unsuccessful tryouts at Shrewsbury, Lincoln, and Wycombe brought a stop to a career that included appearances for Wales Under-21.
Bojan Djordjic, who wore number 69, played little for United between 1999 and 2005 while undergoing a number of loan stints. He joined Blackpool after leaving for Rangers, then played in Sweden and India. He left the Asian nation in 2015, 17 years after making his senior debut.
Most recently, during March’s internationals, he made news when he engaged in an on-screen altercation with current Sweden manager Janne Andersson.
On the 22-year-old list, one United hero is still a member of the team today. Darren Fletcher finished 13th and won five Premier League championships, a Champions League, a Club World Cup, and an FA Cup while playing for the Old Trafford senior team.
In his 342 appearances over the course of his 14-year career, he scored 24 goals and handed out 30 assists, but his link-up play garnered the greatest praise. Fletcher is now the club’s technical director.