David Beckham has led the tributes to Manchester United’s former youth team coach Eric Harrison, who has died aged 81.
Harrison, who forged the fledgling careers of the Class of ’92 stars Beckham – who had a loan spell at Preston North End as part of his footballing education – Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Gary and Phil Neville, was diagnosed with dementia four years ago.
On Thursday, Manchester United announced Harrison had died on Wednesday night.
Beckham 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.”
Sir Alex Ferguson, who worked with Harrison at Old Trafford and reaped the rewards of his sterling efforts, hailed his “hard work and sacrifice”.
“Eric’s contribution to football and not just Manchester United was incredible,” Ferguson said.
“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.”
Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who was part of the treble-winning team in 1999, said: “Eric Harrison, one of footballs 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.”