Marcus Rashford will help seal a special moment in Manchester United’s history on Sunday.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team take the field for their Premier League game against Everton, it will be the 4,000th consecutive time United’s matchday squad has contained a player they have developed in their youth set-up.
The run started with a Second Division encounter against Fulham at Craven Cottage on 30 October 1937.
Rashford is the current shining star, following in the footsteps of – among others – Johnny Carey, the Busby Babes, Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, George Best and the Class of 92.
The England striker spoke to BBC Sport about his own development from a young child growing up in Wythenshawe.
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Do you remember the first time a scout spoke to you or your mum and said, ‘we want Marcus to come down’?
Yeah. Before I came to United, there was a lot of clubs [including Manchester City and Liverpool, as well Everton, Newcastle, Crewe and Accrington Stanley]. We supported Manchester United but my mum didn’t know much about football.
It was my brothers, really, who managed to categorise good academies from bad academies, The final decision came down to which club I loved and wanted to play for? United was perfect. It was everything that you wish for as a kid. Whether you leave the club or you stay here forever, people say once you play for United you’re always a red and for me that’s true.
How important is the academy to what Manchester United is?
The academy holds a huge place in United’s history. They mould you into a Manchester United person or a Manchester United player. But the process begins before you can even remember. There are people who have been there since they were five or six. I was having fun until I was about 11 or 12.
You don’t realise how good you can be or the potential you have. You are just having a kickabout with some kids you have grown to like and have become friends with through football. Looking back on it, the stuff we used to do in training, that is how the process started in becoming a Manchester United player.
How difficult is it to break through at a club like this?
It can be very tough. We are privileged to go to lots of tournaments in places like Spain or Italy. I tried to take little bits from everywhere I went. I used to think ‘even if you are not as good as some of the players you are playing against, it is a completely different culture’.
You see with some of the Spanish and Brazilian players here, they bring something different to the team.
There was a tournament where we finished 14th out of 20. We all learned so much from that tournament. There was another where we finished second but we probably didn’t learn half as much as we did in the previous one. It is around the ages of 13, 14, 15 that you learn a lot.
From 15 to 18, that is your moment to start trying to mature because the men’s game is a lot different to academy football. The initial transition can be tough but if you just stick at it, naturally you get used to it. You start to perform at that level and it will become standard.
What was it like when you first trained with the first team?
The first time was under David Moyes and a group of us went over. It was an amazing feeling. I remember the training session, we didn’t actually touch the ball, we were just doing shape and stuff like that. But then we go back to our own age group. What you learned from that little 15-20 minutes is priceless as a young academy player.
Those moments start to add up and when you start training with them more regularly, you pick up more things, more things to learn from and that’s how you become a first-team player.
Who were the biggest influences on your career?
I always try to narrow it down to the biggest impact, which was moving into a forward position. When I was an academy player, I was more about creating opportunities and showing people what I could do.
It wasn’t until about six months before I made my debut – when I was 18 – that my perception changed.
That was down to [coaches] Paul McGuinness, Colin Little and spells with Warren Joyce, especially in training. What they did started to mature me a little bit and make me understand it was not all about showing people what I could do.
I might have to be in a position where I would not get the ball but it would be affecting play more than if I was getting the ball all the time. That six-month period before I made my debut was a huge learning curve.
Rashford’s debut, in a Europa League match against Danish side Midtjylland in the Europa League on 25 February 2016, was something of a fluke.
Will Keane had been injured after coming on in an FA Cup tie at Shrewsbury three days earlier, so Rashford replaced him as a substitute in the squad for the European game. He was thrust into the starting line-up by then-manager Louis van Gaal after Anthony Martial was injured in the warm-up. Rashford scored twice in a 5-1 win.
I had been on the bench at Watford and Leicester the previous November and not got on, so I think I would have made my debut at some point in the season.
That night it was obviously unfortunate for Anthony that he got injured but it was an opportunity for me to speed up the process of playing for the first team. Because of the way it happened, I wasn’t thinking much about anything. I just wanted to enjoy the moment. It was something special for the rest of my career. I just wanted to enjoy it.
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Rashford has now made 191 first-team appearances, scoring 58 goals. In February 2018, his portrait was added to those of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, among others, that adorn the walls of the academy building at United’s Carrington training ground.
Last weekend, Solskjaer said he could reach the same heights as five-time Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
It is a bit overwhelming but it is the process of development. The players I looked up to are obviously older now. The younger players look up to us. The transition happens so fast. When I understood that, my perception of that picture changed a little bit.
When I was younger and saw people such as Beckham and Scholes on the walls, it gave me that determination every time you went to training. I wanted to reach those heights. I knew they were on the other side of the building, training every day and working hard. I was so far away from them but so close at the same time.
It’s happening now where people like me and Scotty [McTominay] are an example to some of the academy lads who are coming in. It will be the same in a few years’ time, when it’s the next lot of kids. While that happens, I don’t see United’s breeding of players slowing down.
The Ronaldo thing was nice, definitely a compliment. But I understand how far I’ve got left to go to reach the heights he reached so I am very clear-minded and focused on myself.