Rashford applauded by Garner Williams and Greenwood

4,000-up for United in landmark match

Friday 13 December 2019 15:57

Manchester United’s game against Everton marks the 4,000th consecutive match in all competitions, where the club has had a homegrown player in the matchday squad.

The run started all the way back in 1937, the year of King George VI’s coronation, when Tom Manley and Jack Wassall were selected for the away game at Fulham.

Manley was initially a left half-back, who joined from Northwich Victoria at the age of 18, seven years earlier. A physical presence, weighing around 13 stone, he was versatile and had leadership qualities.

He joined Brentford after a lengthy pursuit by the Bees but the War interrupted his career just when he was pushing for an England cap. He was stationed in Egypt and, in 1940, he was training as an Army PE instructor in Manchester.

Wassall was an inside-right who cost £350 from Wellington Town in 1935 and took his chance after an injury to Smith. His brother Bill played for Shrewsbury Town.

The Museum have a card compiled by Walter Crickmer based on Tom Manley.
Johnny Carey and Stan Pearson worked their way into the line-up that season and would become stalwarts. Striker Jimmy Hanlon impressed with the Reserves to gain promotion to the side in 1938, only for the Second World War to understandably interrupt football in England the following year.

In the first game following the outbreak of peace, Carey, Pearson and Hanlon were all in the side against Grimsby Town, the first named by boss Matt Busby. The new manager’s commitment to youth would fuel the continuation of the run, as he began to nurture his ‘Babes’ and create a blueprint for the future.

Charlie Mitten, John Aston and Johnny Morris became influential performers and helped the club lift the FA Cup in 1948. The following decade would usher in the new wave of Babes from the successful teams that won the FA Youth Cup in the first five years of its existence.

Bobby Charlton made his debut in 1956 but the Munich Air Disaster, two years later, would devastate the club. Seven of the eight players who lost their lives were homegrown talents with the world at their feet. The rebuilding would still lean heavily on the youth system, with survivors Bill Foulkes and Charlton becoming hugely influential, ably supported by a certain young Northern Irishman, in George Best, who quickly made his mark.

The league title was secured in 1965, with Nobby Stiles and David Sadler also making an impression, before the crowning glory at Wembley in 1968, when Benfica were defeated 4-1, after extra time, in the European Cup final. United became the first English team to lift the trophy and the scorers Charlton (2), Best and, on his 19th birthday, Brian Kidd, were all youth-team products.

Another Belfast boy, Sammy McIlroy, burst through to become a regular in the 1970s, as Best and Charlton departed the scene. Dependable full-back Arthur Albiston, like McIlroy, made his debut in the Manchester derby and never looked back and this pair racked up the appearances. Brian Greenhoff and Jimmy Nicholl also started the one trophy win in the decade, the 1977 FA Cup final against Liverpool, with David McCreery coming off the bench.

In the 1980s, we welcomed Norman Whiteside and Mark Hughes off the production line, two powerhouses who became firm crowd favourites under Ron Atkinson. The two combined for Whiteside to curl the 1985 FA Cup final winner against Everton, while Hughes was always the man for the big occasion. Alex Ferguson’s arrival as manager, in 1986, would only help strengthen the connection with our youth system and keeper Gary Walsh was his first homegrown debutant in only his sixth match in charge.

A sprinkling of so-called ‘Fergie Fledglings’ helped keep the run going and Hyde-born Lee Martin scored the winning goal in the 1990 FA Cup final replay against Crystal Palace, the first piece of silverware in Ferguson’s incredible reign. The following year, Ryan Giggs made his debut and would go on to become our record appearance maker.

Sammy McIlroy was a regular in the line-up after breaking into the side.
The glory years always featured youth representation, with the manager famously turning to his ‘kids’ when coach Eric Harrison’s Class of 92 emerged to offer him options such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville and Nicky Butt. The century drew to a close with the Treble victory in 1999, with four of this famous batch in the line-up for the Champions League success against Bayern Munich.

Neville’s brother Phil started to make an impression as well as United kept winning, and continued to rely on this core of the famous youth team. Darren Fletcher and John O’Shea emerged as valuable, and versatile, additions to the squad. Another Champions League victory was enjoyed in 2008, with Wes Brown starting the final against Chelsea, along with Giggs and Scholes. In the following season, Federico Macheda marked his debut as a 17-year-old with a crucial late winner against Aston Villa to help fend off Liverpool in the title race.

Sir Alex was happy to introduce more youngsters into the fold as his glorious spell in charge continued, always keeping with the best traditions of the club. Jonny Evans and Danny Welbeck were just two of them, while the FA Youth Cup-winning team of 2011 included Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard, who ended up becoming important contributors following the Scot’s retirement. Lingard volleyed in the FA Cup winner over Crystal Palace in Louis van Gaal’s final match in charge.

By then, Marcus Rashford has also burst onto the scene under the Dutchman, scoring twice on his debut against Midtjylland and going from strength to strength. However, there were a couple of occasions in the 2015/16 campaign when we had to rely on unused substitutes to maintain the record, including in the opening fixture against Tottenham at Old Trafford (Sam Johnstone, Paddy McNair and Andreas Pereira were on the bench).

Defenders Gary Neville and John O'Shea with the FA Cup.
Pogba returned to the club from Juventus and found the net in the Europa League final triumph over Ajax during Jose Mourinho’s tenure and the chain has remained unbroken, with Scott McTominay also becoming a role model for the entire Academy under the Portuguese manager.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is showing signs that he will also invest his faith heavily in youth, dishing out a record-breaking six debuts in the Europa League tie in Kazakhstan against Astana last month. He has pledged that the run will certainly continue under his watch as the influence of the Academy on the first team grows and grows.

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