Eric Harrison, coach and mentor of Manchester United’s famous Class of 92, has died at the age of 81.
He played a crucial role in nurturing the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt, who all became regulars in Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team and led successful careers.
Ferguson paid tribute, saying: ‘Eric’s contribution to football and not just at Manchester United was incredible.
‘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.’
Eric Harrison, the Manchester United coach who helped nurture Manchester United’s Class of 92, has died at the age of 81. He is pictured with (left to right) Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Terry Cooke
Eric Harrison (front), Manchester United youth team coach, with members of his team in 1992. (Left to right) Gary Neville, Ben Thornley, Steven Riley, Chris Casper, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Robbie Savage, Harrison, Richard Irving, Paul Scholes, Mark Rawlinson, John O’Kane, Jovan Kirovski, Keith Gillespie and David Pierce.
David Beckham paid Harrison a visit in 2017 after learning he was struggling with dementia
Gary Neville and Paul Scholes also visited Harrison after being contacted by his grandson
United paid tribute to Harrison and posted a picture of Beckham and the Neville brothers with Harrison after United won the FA Cup in 1996
His Class of 92 graduates led the tributes to Harrison on Twitter after he died having struggled with dementia for four years.
Gary Neville wrote: ‘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.’
David Beckham posted a picture of Harrison and the Class of 92 on Instagram and echoed Neville’s sentiments.
He added: ‘He was always watching and always with us every time we played, I can still hear him telling me NO MORE HOLLYWOOD PASSES.
‘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.’
Gary Neville led tributes on Twitter, saying ‘we’ve lost our mentor, our coach and the man who made us’ and shared a picture of Harrison and the Class of 92 after the 1999 Treble win
David Beckham paid tribute to Harrison with a message and picture on his Instagram account
Class of 92 graduate Phil Neville also paid his respects to his mentor on Instagram
Class of 92 member Robbie Savage posted this message on Twitter: ‘Such sad news to hear of Eric Harrison’s passing – Eric was a massive part of my education, not only in football but life in general – hard work, desire, commitment and respect.
‘He built character and determination in all of us, he was a great coach and a great man.
‘I’ll never forget the letter he wrote to me after my release from United, a letter I have to this day, saying that he believed in me and don’t give up.
‘Eric along with my family was the reason I didn’t and to this day I will always be so thankful to Eric.’
Harrison played in the lower leagues with Halifax, Hartlepool, Barrow and Southport before completing his coaching badges.
He arrived at United from Everton in June 1981, taking up the position as youth team manager under Ron Atkinson.
When Atkinson was sacked in 1986, Ferguson kept Harrison on but expressed dissatisfaction that not enough young players were coming through the ranks into the first team.
United vastly improved their scouting network and Harrison set to work developing a crop of talented young footballers that became known as the ‘Fergie Fledglings’.
In 1992 a side coached by Harrison won the FA Youth Cup, defeating Crystal Palace, and they reached the final again the following year, losing to Leeds United.
Harrison helped produce a team of talented young players that would become the backbone of Alex Ferguson’s successful United team during the 1990s
The United youth team coach pictured with the Premier League trophy after United’s 2001 win
Pictured with Sir Alex Ferguson at the launch of his autobiography back in March 2001
In 1995, a United side captained by Phil Neville and coached by Harrison won the Youth Cup again, beating Tottenham in the final.
The likes of Giggs, Beckham, Scholes and the Neville brothers broke into United’s first team during the early to mid-1990s and would become the backbone of a remarkably successful side.
United dominated the early years of the Premier League, winning Doubles of the championship and FA Cup in 1994 and 1996.
In 1999, a United side packed with Harrison’s prodigies won an unprecedented Treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.
Harrison also spent four years as Wales assistant manager under Mark Hughes.
In all Harrison spent 27 years at Old Trafford and was awarded an MBE in December 2017.
He had been diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2014 and spent his final years in a nursing home. He died peacefully with his family by his side on Wednesday night.
Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel tweeted: ‘Eric Harrison, one of football’s greatest people has sadly passed away.
‘Responsible for the development of The Class of 92 and so many other great players that came through the @ManUtd academy he was one of the clubs biggest heroes. RIP Eric.’
Michael Carrick, ex-United midfielder and current coach, wrote: ‘So sad. Thoughts are with Eric’s friends and family.
‘I’ve heard so many stories over the years about the influence Eric had on the lads coming through the youth team. Schooling and developing them into some of the worlds best players.
‘Such an integral part of the club. RIP’
Another former United player Danny Higginbotham tweeted: ‘Eric Harrison was a wonderful coach for players coming through @ManUtd and helped produce some of the best but as much as anything he taught you how to conduct yourself and make that step from boy to man.
‘A fantastic influence on so many including myself. RIP Eric.’
Chris Casper, another United academy graduate, wrote: ‘Eric Harrison wasn’t just a great coach in the development of many players, he was also a great man who guided young people and helped shape the lives of many more, thanks for everything Eric.’
Former Wales striker John Hartson tweeted: ‘Sorry to hear the passing of Eric Harrison. I worked with Eric when he was Mark Hughes’ assistant with the Wales national team. A lovely man.’
Former United defender David May tweeted: ‘Gutted to hear the news about Eric Harrison thoughts are with his family,he was a lovely man.’
Current United coach Mike Phelan said: ‘A great coach and more importantly a great man RIP Eric you brought so much to @ManUtd football club.’