3,883 games and counting: Rashford continues United academy streak

Marcus Rashford has already followed in the footsteps of Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, George Best, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham.

But if he is selected by Jose Mourinho to face Tottenham this weekend, it will be a significant milestone for the Manchester United academy that produced them.

A key part of Mourinho's squad at just 19, it is likely Rashford will start at Old Trafford on Saturday. And if he does, it will extend a record the club are particularly proud of beyond 80 years.

Should Mourinho pick Rashford or Jesse Lingard -- or Scott McTominay or Axel Tuanzebe, for that matter -- it will be 3,883 consecutive games that a United manager has selected a youth team graduate in their match-day squad.

It is a run that started on Oct. 30, 1937 -- the 80th anniversary falls on Monday, the day before United face Benfica in the Champions League -- when Tom Manley and Jackie Wassall played in a 1-0 defeat to Fulham.

Rashford, Lingard, McTominay and Tuanzebe are just the latest to pick up the baton.

To put it into context, Everton also have an impressive run of promoting youth team graduates. After United, it is the longest in the Premier League standing at more than 1,000 games over 21 years.

For the round of Premier League matches on the last weekend in August, six teams -- Bournemouth, Burnley, Manchester City, Stoke, Swansea and Watford -- did not include a youth team graduate at all. United beat Leicester 2-0 thanks, in part, to a goal from Rashford.

The record is detailed in Sons of United, a chronicle of United's youth team written by Steve Hobin and Tony Park.

Greater movement of young players between different clubs and countries means there are strict criteria about what constitutes a youth team graduate.

They have to join United before they turn 18, without playing first team football elsewhere, and play for the club's junior teams as part of their development.

It means players such as Lee Sharpe, who played for Torquay before moving to Old Trafford, and Regan Poole, who played first team football for Newport, do not count.

"I use these three criteria as we can hardly claim that we developed the player if they were virtually adults when they joined, had already played first team football somewhere else or went straight into our first team without playing for our academy in some capacity," Park said.

The question, though, is why is it important?

United have the wealth to compete for players with the biggest clubs in the world. It is, after all, easier to spot a Champions League winner at age 25 than at age 15.

After revolutionising the youth setup following his arrival from Aberdeen in 1986, Sir Alex Ferguson won the Champions League in 1999 with four former youth players in his team and another two on the bench.

But Ferguson, and the academy staff at Carrington, will tell you it is about more than just trophies.

"People like Marcus and Jesse, people who know the system, they have to carry the club now," said Nicky Butt, himself a youth team graduate, Champions League winner in 1999 and now head of the academy.

"These players who come in for a lot of money might not know the club or the environment or the area, so it's up to those guys to incorporate them into United and instill those beliefs," Butt added.

"They need to be introducing them to Kath on reception [at Carrington], letting them know how long she's been here at the club.

"They need to recognise the laundry people, the canteen ladies, the chefs, the ground staff and security lads -- they're part of our family and you need to say 'good morning' to them every single day.

"When you come to United, the players are the superstars and the ones everyone wants an autograph from but, when you come into this building, we're all equal. We all have a role and, without one, we don't have a team," Butt said.

The players who have gone before continue to play a key role.

McTominay, who has been training with United since he was five, said after playing in the Carabao Cup win at Swansea on Tuesday: "When you see boys progressing and impressing in the first team, it gives the lads in the academy the motivation to keep pushing forward."

The corridors of the academy building at Carrington are covered with murals of past graduates such as Giggs, Butt and Rashford.

On the noticeboards in the dressing rooms, there is a list of 14 pieces of advice written by Gary Neville.

No.2 is: "Give 100 percent all the time. You have never arrived at Man United so you must maintain a high standard all the time, every day."

No.3 is: "Always remember why you began to play football. You loved it for its own sake and not as a means to get money, fame, girls or cars."

Neville, a Youth Cup winner, made 602 first team appearances to sit fifth on United's all-time list. The four above -- Bill Foulkes, Paul Scholes, Charlton and Giggs -- were all part of the same production line.

It's the same one Mourinho will benefit from when he picks his team to play Tottenham this weekend.

The same one United hope the manager, whoever it is, can still turn to in another 80 years' time.