On Sunday afternoon, Manchester United celebrate an incredible record which has seen us feature an academy player in every single matchday squad for a consecutive 4,000 games, going back to 1937.
Paul Pogba first joined the club when he was 16 and has spoken to the official club site about what that record means and how it felt when he came the Manchester.
It’s unbelievable and it shows the identity of this club and the culture of this club. We’ve always talked about youth players coming into the first team and it’s just carried on. It’s something that is in this club, it’s incredible it’s been happening since 1937. You want to carry this on for the young players and the next generation to go and play in the first team.
When I arrived here, everything felt big! The training ground was big, all the players were big, the pitch was big, everything was big and I had my eyes open the whole time. Then I put the shirt on for the first time and I said: ‘Wow, I came to Manchester United’, I just couldn’t believe it. When I started training with the first team, I was 17, and I remember Vida was there and Ji-sung Park and I touched Vida and I saw how tough and how strong he was! I knew then I had to work hard to get into the first team. It was a really great experience as a young kid to come here at 16 and see everything so big, and see all these top players and a top manager. To be there, having them sat next to us around the training ground, was a dream come true.
Since being a teenager, Pogba has had the history and culture of the club ingrained in him, with former youth coach Jimmy Ryan giving him lessons, as well as first team players.
Jim Ryan talked to me a lot about that. He used to play for United and he used to tell me: ‘At this club, young players have a chance to get into the first team’. He said that was the identity of the club. He talked about training hard, passing the ball, pass and run, all this stuff… Pat was here too, Rio as well and even Berba talked to me a lot about it all. They help you understand how it is here, Pat talked to me a lot because he’s French. Obviously the boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, talked to me as well and he came to see us as well when we were playing in the Reserves or the FA Youth Cup. He used to give us messages and he’d also take us [on trips] for cup games. It shows the history this club has with involving young players and how it’s always been like that.
Pogba won the Youth Cup with United in 2011, beating a Sheffield United side that featured Harry Maguire in the final, with our 10 wins putting us ahead of every club in the country. The Frenchman reflected on that cup winning team and how the academy helped him develop.
Harry was there! We had a good team and a lot of players who played in the first team or went to other clubs. Will Keane played in the first team then he went to Hull, Mike Keane is at Everton, Jesse, myself and Sam Johnstone, Tyler Blackett, Rav, Larnell, Ryan Tunnicliffe, they’re still playing… we had a really decent team.
From the start, like I said, when I arrived here, they show you the way of playing. All the coaches show you how to prepare yourself to get into the first team. Warren Joyce used to train us very hard to be ready for the first team. The first team always used to play with 4-4-2, so we used to do the same meaning when you got the chance to be with the first team you could play and not be lost on the pitch.