Eric Harrison - Yorkshire coach whose hard love has shaped Manchester United football stars

The success of Eric Harrison may have been measured by other achievements, but his role in a glorious chapter in the history of Manchester United was undeniable.

Harrison, who died at the age of 81, oversaw United's legendary academy for nearly two decades and his protégés stuffed the trophy chests at Old Trafford and beyond.

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His most famous graduates are the "Class of 92" – David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, the Neville brothers and Nicky Butt – players who will form the backbone of the trio of winners in 1999.

But they were far from alone. Harrison has trained 18 future internationals.

"It was like joining the army and Eric Harrison was a sergeant major," Giggs writes in his autobiography.

"He had real problems on his part and you could not answer. He was an intimidating man.

Harrison was brought to United by Everton by Ron Atkinson in 1981 to work there as head of the youth team.

Five years later, Sir Alex Ferguson arrived, appointed him head of youth development and asked in return that more players be recruited.

Harrison recalled this conversation in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2001.

"I was a little susceptible, because I thought he was going to attack me," Harrison said. "So I pointed out that Norman Whiteside and one or two other players had managed to play in the first team.

"He said," Yes, I accept it. But I want more than that. And when I said, "How do you mean, you want more than that? He replied, "I want more players!

"So, having always been a bit confident, I said," That's right, we're going to make a deal. You give me better players, and I will make you more young in the first team. And he said, "Finished! ""

It was the beginning of a relationship that would reshape the club.

The two men came closer and Harrison understood what Ferguson was looking for in the potential players on the first team.

"The contribution I always think about with Eric, if you wanted a teacher who gave you the right path, the right way to go, Eric was that man," Ferguson said in 2017.

"It's obvious that the 'Class of 92' has been the culmination of his coaching career, but all the young players who have followed him at the time will always look at his contribution and the character he has built in these people. He made them good human beings.

Harrison's approach comes from lessons he learned from his own playing career.

The Yorkshireman started with the club in his hometown, Halifax, where football was an obsession.

On the day of his wedding, in October 1962, he exchanged vows with his wife Shirley in the morning before playing in a 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury in the afternoon.

After seven years in the first Shay team, he joined Hartlepool and signed a year before Brian Clough took his first management position at the club.

Barrow (twice), Southport and Scarborough followed other spells, but wherever he went, Harrison felt that he was missing something – something that he himself wanted to instill as a coach.

"In my entire career, 550 games over 17 years, not a single coach or coach has taken me apart and said that they would work with me to improve some aspects of my game," he said. he said later.

"I was afraid to say anything but I did not think it was right. I told myself that if I ever had a coaching position, I would make sure the players are well trained. "

By the time United raised the 1999 Champions League trophy, Harrison had begun to reduce his commitment as a coach, but he later worked as Mark Hughes' assistant with Wales and as scout with Blackburn and Huddersfield.

In recent years, he began to suffer from dementia, which was diagnosed in 2014. He spent his last years in a retirement home, but has not been forgotten by his previous accusations.

After his grandson Joseph contacted them, Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, Neville and others came to visit their former mentor and spend time with them, demonstrating the strength of the links that he had. he wove.

Harrison himself said that the manager was the most important man of a football club, but insisted that the youth coach should be ranked just behind.

In the history of the United States in the 1990s and early 2000s, he was undeniably right.

"Although Sir Alex has given us our chance," Butt said, "it was Eric who was pushing him to place us at a very young age."