Home Sports Marcus Rashford reaches century of goals but Man Utd are thankful to De Gea

Marcus Rashford reaches century of goals but Man Utd are thankful to De Gea

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Marcus Rashford reaches century of goals but Man Utd are thankful to De Gea

When Erik ten Hag selected Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Elanga for his squad against West Ham on Sunday, he ensured the continuation of a remarkable Manchester United tradition: in every single game since the match against Fulham at Craven Cottage on 30 October 1937, there has been a homegrown player in the matchday squad. Across over 4,000 consecutive matches in the league, cup and European competitions, there has always been at least one graduate of the United youth system, writes Jim White.

The process began in the early thirties when the club secretary Walter Crickmer and chief scout Louis Rocca, instituted the Manchester United Junior Athletic Club. The purpose of MUJAC was economic as much as sentimental; it was designed to save a club, that had only recently faced bankruptcy, money by rooting out the best young talent early, thus reducing the requirement of heavy transfer fees. And it was a philosophy later embraced wholeheartedly by United’s two greatest managers – Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson. Both men believed that a club’s identity is forged by its youth; seeing one of their own represent them on the pitch brings the fans closer to the operation. Busby’s concept reached its fruition with the Babes and informed his entire selection process: between signing Tommy Taylor in March 1953 and bringing in Harry Gregg in December 1957 he did not pay out a transfer fee for a single player. The high point of Fergie’s Fledglings was the Class of 92, the Youth Cup winning side featuring Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers that went on to be both the core and conscience of his teams for more than a decade. 

Since then it has become such an essential element of the club’s identity that managers are expected to ensure there is always a representation of youth. Even Jose Mourinho – not someone who in his career has demonstrated much interest in the promotion of youth – maintained it in his time in the Old Trafford dug out. Indeed, a significant part of the rationale to appoint Ten Hag from Ajax in the summer was his history of encouraging homegrown talent.

Intriguingly the club itself was unaware of the level of long-lasting consistency in its selection policy until it was uncovered in 2010. The historian Tony Park was researching his comprehensive chronicle of young players called Sons of United. And going over old records, he began to see a pattern, which he traced back to that starting point on October 1937.

“Looking back I discovered that the game before the one at Fulham, against Sheffield Wednesday, had no youth team players involved,” he tells Telegraph Sport. “So that was the beginning.”

Thus was an unbroken tradition revealed, one which no other club in the country can match. And one which, furthermore, ten Hag shows no sign of breaking. 

United’s finest youth team graduates in the 85 years since the record started

1930s: Tom Manley and Jackie Wassell (the two homegrown players picked for the Fulham game)

1940s: Stan Pearson and Johnny Carey

1950s: Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton and the Busby Babes

1960s: George Best and Nobby Stiles

1970s: Sammy McIlroy and Arthur Albiston

1980s: Mark Hughes and Norman Whiteside

1990s: Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Class of 92

2000s: Wes Brown and Darren Fletcher

2010s: Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba

2020s: Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Elanga

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