Former professional footballer and Manchester United youth coach Eric Harrison, who was in charge of the famous Class of '92, which featured the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, has died at the age of 81.
The Red Devils confirmed the news via Twitter and offered their condolences to his family and friends:
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. pic.twitter.com/vS94a8MKxr— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 14, 2019
The news of his death was met with many tributes, including from club legend Gary Neville—another member of the Class of '92:
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 ❤️ pic.twitter.com/iv0uisTGCl— Gary Neville (@GNev2) February 14, 2019
United coach Mike Phelan also paid tribute to Harrison, while Beckham posted a heartfelt message on Instagram.
Sportswriters Sam Pilger and Oliver Kay shared anecdotes highlighting just how important he was to the Red Devils' young talents:
I once asked David Beckham what it was like working with Eric. I had meant Cantona, but he instead responded with lavish praise about Eric Harrison. To Beckham and the Class of 1992 there was always only one Eric.— Sam Pilger (@sampilger) February 14, 2019
Sad re Eric Harrison. For a hint of the esteem in which ex #MUFC youth players held him, his grandson got in touch with some of them to tell him he was ill. David Beckham baked a carrot cake with his kids & drove to Halifax (400-mile round trip) to see him https://t.co/YFF5vEvFay pic.twitter.com/49gX4H9Yjk— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) February 14, 2019
Harrison―who received an MBE as part of the 2018 New Year Honours―spent his playing career in the lower leagues of English football and had his best spell at Halifax Town. He made his name as a youth-team coach, however, playing a key role in the rise of United under Sir Alex Ferguson.
As reported by BBC Sport's Simon Stone, Harrison managed the Class of '92, a group of players that would go on to achieve legendary status at the club. Winners of the 1992 FA Youth Cup, the team contained the likes of Beckham, Neville, Scholes, Nicky Butt and Giggs.
He also worked with Phil Neville, Keith Gillespie, Robbie Savage and many others.
Harrison followed Mark Hughes, another academy graduate, and spent four years as an assistant manager with the Welsh national team. Per Stone, he was diagnosed with dementia four years ago.