Eric Harrison, the former youth team coach of Manchester United’s Class of 92, has died aged 81.
Harrison, who forged the fledgling careers of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Gary and Phil Neville, was diagnosed with dementia four years ago.
Appointed by then United manager Ron Atkinson in 1981, Harrison mentored a number of other high-profile youngsters including Mark Hughes, Norman Whiteside, Wes Brown, David Platt and Darren Fletcher.
His greatest success came under Sir Alex Ferguson with the Class of 92 players forming the backbone of United’s treble-winning side of 1999.
In a statement, the club said: “Manchester United is extremely saddened to report that our former youth coach Eric Harrison passed away on Wednesday. He was 81.
“Everyone at Manchester United sends their deepest condolences to Eric’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time.”
Gary Neville wrote on Twitter: “We’ve lost our mentor, our coach and the man who made us.
“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.”
Harrison was awarded an MBE for services to football just over a year ago.
“If you wanted a teacher who gave you the right path forward he was that man. I was really lucky as I got to know that,” said Ferguson when the award was announced.
“Obviously the Class of 92 was the climax of his coaching career but all the young players who came through looked at his contribution.
“He was able to impart knowledge to them about the best way to be a footballer.
“Not all of them made it but the five (Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Butt and Gary Neville), who epitomised the work he did, are a testimony to the work he did.”
In a statement released on Thursday, Ferguson paid tribute to his long-serving member of staff.
“Eric’s contribution to football and not just at Manchester United was incredible,” he said.
“When I came as manager I was lucky enough to have Eric on the staff as head of youth development, so I got to see the work he did and not just with the Class of 92 but with all the young players.
“He built character and determination in those young players and prepared them for the future. He was a teacher, he gave these players a path, a choice and he only did that through his own hard work and sacrifice.
“He was able to impart that education to the young which made him one of the greatest coaches of our time.
“On a personal level Eric had a wicked, dry sense of humour and was straight-talking and I admired that in him.”
Former England captain Beckham paid tribute to Harrison.
“He was always watching and always with us every time we played, I can still hear him telling me NO MORE HOLLYWOOD PASSES,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I can still see him as we played on The Cliff training ground looking down on us either with a proud smile or a loud bang of his fist on the window knowing any minute he would be on his way down to probably advise me in the most polite way to stop playing those passes.
“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. Gary, Phil, Ryan, Paul, Nicky and David.”