October 30th 1937 was the last time a senior Manchester United squad was involved in a game that did not include a homegrown player. Since then, despite the ever-changing face and landscape of football, the club can still point to a facet about them that resonates with its roots but above all, the proud heritage of the people of Manchester.
Of course, United have since become more than a football club since then. Forbes Magazine has the club listed as the most valuable brand in world football with a fan base and worldwide reach akin to the United Nations. Indeed, at times, it must feel to the local Manchester born kid that United have become so big that they no longer belong to just the people of Manchester. United are of course very much alive in the community given their work with the Foundation but it is an Academy policy that pre-dates the Second World War that has got fans all over the world proud this week.
On Saturday, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Scott Mctominay’s selection for the game against Spurs meant that the club have now made it 3,883 consecutive games with an Academy graduate in their senior ranks on a Matchday. It is an achievement that breathes life and hope into the club’s Academy at a time when the nation is yearning for top clubs to tap into the potential of youth. England, are currently at the summit of the youth football pyramid, having won the U17 World Cup only last week to add to the recent success of the U20s. United’s youth policy is therefore a beacon of hope for the country at a time when managerial pressures and turnover make it harder to trust in youth. In context, the next longest run is currently held by Everton at 1,000 games over 21 years.
Manchester United have grown into a global corporate machine that can finance an entire squad made up of non-academy players if they wanted to and yet they’ve stuck to their heritage. The club always gives youth a chance, and that is more than many of their title rivals can offer. Jesse Lingard, a local lad, who came off the bench on Saturday for his 97th senior appearance, had this to say about the 80th anniversary of United’s proud record;
“It’s huge,” Lingard told ManUtd.com. “It’s always good to have local lads and Academy players in the first team, with the experienced lads as well. We’ve got a good mix at the moment. I am definitely proud to have come through the ranks to play for the first team. Growing up as a fan of Manchester United as well means that putting on the shirt is always a real honour for me. You always have to try your hardest and give 100 per cent, whenever you have the shirt on.”
The greatest indication yet that this record yet to run its course is in the fact that 16-year-old Angel Gomes who is currently part of the U18s and has just helped England win the U17 World Cup is also part of the list of players down the years who have been apart of this magnificent record. With Rashford, Lingard, and Mctominay, among others, still in the twilight of their Old Trafford careers, there’s every chance United make it 4,000 games of United Youth. The Sons of United, if you will.