Ask many football fans who has the best academy program they will say Barcelona and their famed La Masia Academy. Barcelona got a lot of press when earlier this season their line-up contained 11 graduates of La Masia.
But that achievement pales in comparison to what has been going on at Old Trafford. According to two historians of United’s famed academy, a graduate from United’s youth set-up has been in their first-team squad for every single match since October 30, 1937. That is a unbelievable run of 3,623 consecutive games.
Tony Park and Steve Hobin, have written a fascinating book called Sons of United, which charts the history of the Old Trafford production line.
Even more remarkable is that when United played Arsenal on May 1, 2011 that was the first time in 3,516 matches that a graduate of United’s youth academy was not in the STARTING XI. Read that again. Manchester United had a run of 3,516 straight competitive matches with at least one member of their starting line-up being a graduate of their academy.
The streak was broken when John O’Shea was named on the bench at the Emirates Stadium that day, thus continuing the squad record.
The last time a Man United squad did not include a player from the youth set-up was on October 23, 1937, when United beat Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 at Old Trafford in the old Second Division.
And those 76 years have been pretty impressive. Since 1937, thanks in no small part to their graduates, United have won three European Cups, 17 First Division/Premier League titles, 10 FA Cups, four League Cups, the European Cup Winners’ Cup, Intercontinental Cup and World Club Cup.