Sunday’s game against Everton at the Theatre of Dreams will almost certainly mark the 4000th consecutive Manchester United matchday squad which has featured a homegrown academy player. It is a remarkable record and shows how our traditions have been kept and respected by multiple managers throughout the years. Youth is engrained in the club’s culture. The ‘Busby Babes’ and the ‘Class of 92’ are famous examples in years gone by, but it has been a consistent theme throughout the years to develop and bring through our own.
Our current squad is a fantastic example of this. We have several homegrown players in every matchday squad this season and have handed multiple first team debuts to youngsters in the Europa League. Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay are amongst the best players at the club, and they came through our academy system.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 after lifting the Premier League for the final time, there have been accusations that Manchester United have been ruining football with vast spending on additions such as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Harry Maguire. But unlike clubs who are spending similar amounts, we have had a conveyor belt of talent consistently throughout the years. It may be a reflection on poor recruitment, but the fact that so many homegrown players are an integral part of our first team picture, shows a key intention in upholding the development of youth as the main principle of our club.
It is important that the identity of the club is respected. The ‘DNA’ line that Solskjaer has been referring to since his appointment is often laughed at, but you could argue a departure from that since our last title win has lead to a muddle of recruitment and us losing our way as the club we should be.
Clubs around the world are what I see as ‘identity clubs’. Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich to name just three. We are definitely one of them and Sunday’s milestone goes to show this. It is rooted at the heart of our club to develop and nurture our own, despite the state of our results and makeup of our squad. It has to be admired, given accusations top tier Premier League football were spending their way out of trouble and putting development of academy players to one side.
In times where apathy with our club is at an all time high amongst fans, this is surely something we can all get behind and be proud of. Without the support of the fans, youth players breaking through at Old Trafford may not be in the right atmosphere to be nurtured. When a youth player makes their debut, it brings genuine excitement and brings an element of the unknown.
There is no sign of this streak stopping. We have multiple players knocking on the door. Despite Pogba’s uncertain future, you could expect McTominay and Rashford to be consistent and integral parts of our future going forward under Ole or whoever may replace him in the future. And in uncertain times of Brexit, the FA may propose new matchday guidelines to put a higher quota on homegrown players. It is clear that we will have no problem in keeping to this, unlike some other clubs out there.