Rashford: United will always produce players

Monday 31 October 2022 13:00

In 2019, we sat down with Marcus Rashford for an interview about all-things Academy, as we prepared to celebrate 4,000 consecutive games with a homegrown player in Manchester United's matchday squad.

Three years later, Marcus remains a mainstay of the United side under new manager Erik ten Hag, and has now reached the landmark of 100 goals in his 318 first-team appearances so far.
Rashford's words on the Academy remain as apt as they did in 2019 – so we thought we'd revisit his thoughts in the aftermath of another milestone for the club: 85 years in which every matchday squad has featured a player from our youth ranks.
Over to you, Marcus...

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What was it like on your first day, what training venue were you at?
"We weren’t actually at Carrington, you don’t move there until you’re nine or 11 years old. We were at The Cliff. It’s good there, back then the first team used to train there sometimes and you used to watch for five or 10 minutes before you’d go into the indoor astroturf and train. Little things like that are what set Man United apart from other clubs, and how close-knit it is. Even from an age like that – five or six – you have an opportunity to watch the first team train. It’s an amazing feeling."
What impressions did the first team leave on you, who did you like watching?
"When I was younger, Tim Howard used to be one of my favourite players, so I remember just watching him. Then I played as a forward, but it was just good to see how the atmosphere was among professional players who are where you want to be. I know you’re young, but it’s a big eye-opener."

And what did you think of Carrington when you first moved up and started training there?
"It’s like a new world. Everything’s bigger – loads of pitches, loads of players, loads of staff. It’s like your first little step up in Academy life. It is a biggie. It’s an important step."
When did you first make the step up from Academy to first-team training? Was it when you made your debut, or were you involved before then?
"Probably when I was about 17. I had a problem with my back, so I couldn’t train with them, but that was the year I wanted to step up and try to go on the pre-season tour. It didn’t happen that year so I had to be patient and keep working hard in the Under-18s."
Who was your biggest influence from the coaching set-up when you were in the Academy?
"I’d probably say Paul McGuinness and Colin Little. I’ve had a lot of good coaches over the years, everyone had a big part to play in getting me where I am today. All of the coaches, for sure they know the recipe to bring players through."
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When you’re part of the Academy, what did you learn more from – the day-to-day training or playing the actual matches?
"For me, day-to-day training. It’s tough, especially in the Academy – the best players that you come up against are the ones in training. Unless you’re venturing out to play against teams like Chelsea, who you don’t face as regularly. So training was always one of my biggest challenges. We had some good players in our team and training was always intense and of a high quality. So if we just kept doing the right things in training, even if the weekend came and we lost or we didn’t play as well as we wanted to, we were always developing as a team. And I think you can see now, my age group and [those born in] 1996 – the year above – there’s a lot of players that are playing league football. The lads deserved it."
If you could give some advice to a young player joining the Academy now, what would you say to them?
"I think just enjoy the journey. Don’t get caught up in football, football, football, especially at a young age. You have to enjoy training, enjoy the games and enjoy things that have to come with it. You definitely miss out on things as a kid, but for me I just completely flipped it and turned it all into a positive. I saw it as a new experience: even though I wasn’t seeing friends, I was meeting new people every day. New school, new home, different environment. These are little things that if I didn’t choose this path, maybe all I would have known is my friends all the time, and I wouldn’t have been as open to these different things."
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We’ve had at least one player who has come through the youth ranks in every matchday squad since 1937. What makes our Academy so special and why aren’t there more clubs with a record like this?
"Like I said, the coaches are very good and they’re almost doing maybe 12 years of developing an individual. And in those 12 years they can mould you into what they know a Manchester United player is. If you just fall short of being a United player, there are a lot of examples of playing in the Premier League, or in the Championship, or abroad. When you’re a kid you dream of playing professional football. That’s the main aim for a lot of people. Preferably at United – if not somewhere else, but preferably at United. That’s why the coaching staff are very important. And I just can’t see it ever slowing down, us breeding players."
You said we’ve produced a lot of good players. Who would you say is the best ever?
"I think Paul Scholes was a top player. It’s tough [to pick just one], that batch were all top, top players. They’ve all gone on to be club legends here, so I’d have to pick from those four or five players [the Class of ’92]."

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It’s highly unusual to get that many good players coming through at the same time, isn’t it?
"Yeah, I don’t think we’ll see that happen again. In my age group, there were four or five of us that were pushing for the first team. All of a sudden that number would go down to two. So you just see how tough it is to get four, five, six players through from the same age group. It is tough."
Finally, if you had to choose three words to describe the Manchester United Academy and what it means to you, what would they be?
"I think ‘growth’, ‘discipline’ and ‘future’."
Why those words?
"Those are the three words that spring to mind when I think of our Academy. They’re always growing us, there are always more players and they’re becoming better and better. That’s why growth was in there. The other two are just what I’ve known from being in the Academy and they’re the two things – being disciplined and focusing on your future – other than your talent that will get you into the first team."

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