Eric Harrison, former Manchester United youth coach, dies aged 81

Former Manchester United youth team manager Eric Harrison has died at the age of 81.

Harrison, who was diagnosed with mixed dementia four years ago, passed away peacefully on Wednesday night surrounded by his family.

He became youth team manager at Manchester United in 1981 and was in charge of the club's academy when it produced the famous Class of '92, which included Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Gary Neville.

He also spent four years as Wales assistant manager under Mark Hughes and was awarded an MBE for his services to football in the Queen's New Year Honours list in 2018.

Manchester United offered their condolences to Harrison's family in a statement, saying: "We are extremely saddened to report that our former youth coach Eric Harrison passed away last night.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Eric's family and friends at this sad and difficult time."

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson paid tribute to Harrison on Thursday, describing the Yorkshireman as "one of the greatest coaches of our time".

"Eric's contribution to football and not just at Manchester United was incredible," Ferguson 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."

A group of former Manchester United players paid tribute to Harrison in a statement released through Beckham's Instagram.

It said: "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.

"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."