90 years since start of United's youth development

Saturday 27 August 2022 07:00

The first seeds were sown for Manchester United's unparalleled record of youth development when the A team started out on this day in 1932.

The Reds have forged a reputation for trusting in young players in the 90 years that have followed this landmark date, which was when the first match of a side set up by club secretary Walter Crickmer, under instruction from James W Gibson, took place.

Gibson, the club's financial saviour, was determined to start a colts or nursery team, designed to ensure our own production line of talent.

Lal Hilditch became manager, on a wage of £5 per week, and the youngsters entered the Manchester Amateur League, playing home matches at Altrincham's ground.

Hilditch had been a stalwart of the team since joining during the First World War and has a stint as player-manager in 1926/27.

Walter Crickmer with first-team manager Scott Duncan.

"By running a team in the Manchester League, we shall be able to give all likely juniors a chance of showing their paces and United hope to discover from their number, more than average finds," declared first-team manager Scott Duncan to the Manchester Evening Chronicle

The historic first game was a 5-4 defeat to Ashfield on 27 August 1932, with nine goals and plenty of entertainment, displaying an attacking ethos that still carries to this day.

George Vose and Jack Hall impressed sufficiently to swiftly earn professional contracts and would go on to play for the first team.

Defender Vose went on to make 209 appearances for the senior side, after being acquired from Peasley Cross Athletic in 1932. Hall became first-choice keeper, playing 73 times, following previously representing Newton Heath Locos.

Neither is considered our first 'Academy graduate' as they joined after their 18th birthdays but this was a crucial first step for the club, joining the likes of Manchester City and Stockport County's youth sides in the Manchester League.

Jack Coode was also taken on and appeared in a friendly against Wrexham in 1934, in aid of the Gresford Colliery Disaster Fund, despite not featuring in any competitive fixtures.

United's youngsters celebrating winning the 1955 FA Youth Cup.

United lifted the FA Youth Cup for a record 11th time last season, moving two trophies clear of Chelsea in terms of the most successful club in the prestigious competition.

The ideals and principles that formed the basis of the side that won the first editions of the tournament, between 1952/53 and 1956/57, are still present today.

Head of Academy Nick Cox commented: "Our track record of putting players in our own first team is unrivalled. This place is about more than just football. It's about young people learning, developing and going on to be successful."

Meanwhile, supporters can learn more about the club's history at youth level by attending the United Museum at Old Trafford, where the research was conducted for the information supplied here to support articles first released in United Review, the official matchday programme, and Inside United, the club magazine.

An early picture of United's 'colts' side, when youth development started out at the club.


29 March 1932: “The chairman spoke on the advisability of running a colts team or nursery as from next season.”

5 April 1932: “The secretary was instructed to make formal application to the Manchester League for membership [of an A team].”

26 April 1932: “An offer of £5 per week was made to CG Hilditch to manage the colts team in the Manchester League at Altrincham next season.”

5 July 1932: “Agreement with Altrincham FC was submitted in respect of the use of their ground for the purpose of playing the Manchester League matches.”

27 August 1932: First A-team game versus Ashfield.

27 September 1932: “Agreements were then submitted and approved in respect of three players namely J Hall (goal) Jack Coode (right half) and George Vose (centre half) whom had been signed as professionals following promising displays with the A team."

Entries in quotes taken directly from official board of directors' minutes.