RASH­FORD: Manch­ester born and Red

Striker raised at United’s academy re­flects on what the club in­stils in young play­ers as Reds reach re­mark­able mile­stone

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By SI­MON PEACH

BORN in Manch­ester and raised within United’s academy, Marcus Rash­ford has been moulded as both player and per­son by a club that he will to­day help cel­e­brate a re­mark­able mile­stone.

The Pre­mier League en­counter with Ever­ton will be the 4,000th suc­ces­sive match in which United have in­cluded at least one home­grown player within their match­day squad.

“Whether you leave the club, or you stay here for­ever, that feel­ing never leaves you, your life – peo­ple say that once you play for Man United you’re al­ways a red and for me that’s true,” says Rash­ford, one of the most fa­mous re­cent grad­u­ates.

The Sec­ond Di­vi­sion match at Ful­ham on Oc­to­ber 30, 1937, started a re­mark­able run that has sur­vived 82 years of change and shaped the iden­tity of a club where pro­mot­ing youth is obli­ga­tion rather than a bonus. “I think the academy holds a huge place in United’s his­tory,” academy grad­u­ate Rash­ford said.

“The way that the academy breeds play­ers is no shock to me at all. It’s like they mould you into a United per­son and a United player – but the process be­gins be­fore you can even re­mem­ber.

“There are play­ers who have been here since five or six-years-old. Like, for me in that mo­ment, I was just hav­ing fun un­til I was like 12, 11.

“I was just en­joy­ing my­self. You don’t re­alise how good you can be or the po­ten­tial that you have.

“It’s more that you’re hav­ing a kick about with some kids that you’ve grown to like and you be­come friends through foot­ball.

“That’s how it all started off but look­ing back on it the stuff we used to do in train­ing, that’s when the process all started in be­com­ing a Man United player.

“I al­ways say to my­self, if you even fall short go­ing through that process of be­ing a Man United player, you’ll play Pre­mier League foot­ball or in a top di­vi­sion, top league.”

Rash­ford’s view is backed up by a re­cent study which found that United grad­u­ates had more Pre­mier League min­utes than any other club.

The study also showed that United also pro­vided the most topflight game-time to home­grown play­ers, in­clud­ing the like of Scott McTom­i­nay, Jesse Lin­gard, Paul Pogba and the in-form 22-year-old for­ward.

Such fo­cus and op­por­tu­ni­ties helped sway a young Rash­ford to join United amid in­ter­est that is un­der­stood to have come from City and Liver­pool, as well the likes of Ever­ton, New­cas­tle, Crewe and Ac­cring­ton.

“I re­mem­ber at first, be­fore I came to United, there was like loads of dif­fer­ent clubs,” the World Cup semi-fi­nal­ist said.

“Ob­vi­ously my mum didn’t re­ally know much about foot­ball, ob­vi­ously we sup­ported United.

“It was my brothers, re­ally, who man­aged to cat­e­gorise good academies from bad academies and then the fi­nal de­ci­sion just came down to which club do you love and want to play for?

“Then once I went to United, it was per­fect. It was ev­ery­thing that you wish for as a kid.”

From giv­ing ex­cit­ing up-and­com­ing young­sters glimpses of the first-team stars to broad­en­ing their hori­zons against chal­leng­ing op­po­nents, Rash­ford could hardly speak higher about the set-up, coaches

and sup­port sys­tem. While quick to ex­press grat­i­tude to coaches like Paul McGuin­ness, Colin Lit­tle and War­ren Joyce, the 22-year-old con­cedes there are far too many peo­ple to thank within a struc­ture that fo­cuses on the per­son be­hind the player.

“They want you to be a good per­son and to set you up for life,” Rash­ford said. “That can be in foot­ball, but it could also be other things.

“There are some play­ers I played with who went to uni­ver­sity and have re­ally good jobs now.

“The pic­ture they had at the be­gin­ning might not have hap­pened, but they have a re­ally good job and they are happy with what they are do­ing.”

Rash­ford is among those for­tu­nate enough to be­come a first­team star at United.

Hav­ing grown up look­ing up to older academy play­ers like Pogba, Lin­gard and Josh King, he is now among the stars that young­sters idolise – a sta­tus un­der­lined by his im­age on the cor­ri­dors of United’s academy build­ing along with the likes of Sir Bobby Charl­ton, David Beck­ham and Paul Sc­holes.

“At first it was a bit over­whelm­ing but when you look at it, it is just like the process of de­vel­op­ment,” Rash­ford said.

“The play­ers I looked up to are ob­vi­ously older now.

“The younger play­ers now look up to us. The tran­si­tion hap­pens so fast. When I un­der­stood that, my per­cep­tion of that pic­ture over there changed a lit­tle bit.

“It be­came a bit more nor­mal and I un­der­stood what that does for the kids.

“When I was younger and you see peo­ple like Beck­ham and Sc­holes on the walls, it gives you that de­ter­mi­na­tion ev­ery time you went to train­ing and you seen them on the way out, you’d want to reach those heights.”

It is a sys­tem that con­tin­ues to bear fruit at United, with 12 academy grad­u­ates in the cur­rent first-team squad.

In 2019 alone, 10 play­ers hav­ing been handed their first-team de­but and it is hard to imag­ine this un­par­al­leled 4,000 match run end­ing any time soon.

CAN YOU PICK A BET­TER UNITED TEAM? THEN VISIT OUR WEB­SITE: MANCHESTER­EVENINGNEW­S.CO.UK POS­SI­BLE UNITED LINE-UP

Marcus Rash­ford

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