United’s U23s are bottom of the table in Division One of PL2, behind the likes of Derby and Sunderland and miles adrift of leaders Arsenal and Liverpool.
It is embarrassing for an academy that has produced the fabled Busby Babes, the Class of 92 and at least one homegrown player in every first-team squad named since 1937.
Butt, however, insisted that the U23 failure is nothing to worry about because he does not value the competition, pointing out that the best of United’s players in that age group are already involved with the first team while their other most promising youngsters will be out on loan.
His Under-18 squad, meanwhile, won the Premier League northern title by beating Manchester City on Saturday, and it is the U18s that the former England midfielder and member of the Class of 92 values highest.
WHO’S IN MANCHESTER UNITED’S U23 TEAM?
Line-up for the 1-1 draw against Manchester City on April 13.
GK: Kieran O’Hara (age 21)
DF: Joe Riley (21), Ro-Shaun Williams (19), Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (21), Lee O’Connor (17)
MF: Devonte Redmond (21), Ethan Hamilton (19)
FW: Zachary Dearnley (19), Callum Gribbin (19), Tahith Chong (18)
ST: Indy Boonen (19)
‘If you are not around the first team at 20 or 21 you’re not going to be, it’s a fact,’ Butt told the BBC.
‘We are expected to develop players for Manchester United and bring them into the first team. In that respect, I think the academy is thriving massively.’
Jesse Lingard (25), Marcus Rashford (20) and Scott McTominay (21) are some of the more recent graduates.
‘It doesn’t matter whether the manager is David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho, the owners have told us the academy is ring-fenced,’ Butt added.
‘Our foundations, our pillars, stay solid and stand on their own.’
In Butt’s day as a youth player the U23s – then simply the club’s reserve side – saw first-team stars recovering from injury or looking to stay match-sharp regularly turn out. That meant Butt played alongside the likes of Bryan Robson, often in front of crowds numbering in the thousands.
‘Flick that over to now,’ added Butt in another defence of his U23s. ‘Sometimes we go and play at a training pitch on a Tuesday afternoon with no fans and no first-team players.’