Eric Harrison, the former youth coach who nurtured Manchester United's revered 'Class of '92' generation, has died at the age of 81, the club has announced.

Having played in the lower divisions between 1957 and 1972, Harrison joined United in 1981 and was put in charge of the club's youth set-up under manager Ron Atkinson.

He was kept on when Alex Ferguson was hired as Atkinson's successor five years later and ultimately helped forge one of the most successful periods in United's history.

As head of United's youth team, Harrison oversaw the development of the group of players that would become known as the Class of '92, or "Fergie's Fledglings".

David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes all came through United's ranks under Harrison's watch – with the first four being part of the FA Youth Cup-winning side in 1992.


Gary Neville paid tribute to Harrison on Thursday, highlighting his impact on United's homegrown players.

"We've lost our mentor, our coach and the man who made us," he wrote on his Twitter account.

"He taught us how to play, how to never give up, how important it was to win your individual battles and what we needed to do to play for Manchester United Football Club. Eric, we owe you everything."

Gary Neville's younger brother Phil also saluted Harrison's work, having won the FA Youth Cup under his guidance in 1995.

"He was always watching and always with us every time we played," he posted on Instagram.

"More importantly he made us understand how to work hard and respect each other and not just on the pitch.

"We won't forget the life lessons he gave us. Eric, we love you and owe you everything."

Darren Fletcher and Wes Brown were among the other players to play important roles for the first team having been brought through the youth side by Harrison.