Women's Football

Man Utd women are steeped in the same home-grown traditions as the men

Jamie Spencer
Man Utd women have started a home-grown legacy of their own
Man Utd women have started a home-grown legacy of their own / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Home-grown players are part of the fabric of Manchester United and the women’s team, despite only coming back into existence in 2018, has been no exception over the last three years.

The men’s side of the club holds an incredible record of naming at least one home-grown player in every single matchday squad since October 1937 - a run that will soon reach 84 years and already spans well over 4,000 consecutive games.

Developing young talent became a core value for United in the late 1930s after financial ruin almost drove them out of business for the second time in half a century. It was taken on by Matt Busby in the 1940s and 1950s, building the legendary Busby Babes generation, and reignited by Alex Ferguson in the late 1980s and early 1990s to stimulate a new era of domination.

The women’s team has also so far also been able to rely on a core of home-grown players that has underpinned their rapid rise from the Women’s Championship into the WSL and into Women’s Champions League contention within a few short years.

Ella Toone, Katie Zelem
Ex-academy players like Katie Zelem & Ella Toone returned in 2018 when Man Utd formed a senior women's team / Kate McShane/Getty Images

United’s history in women’s football is patchy. An unofficial team ran for over 20 years from the late 1970s until 2001, at which point the club officially partnered with it, only for the association to last just four years before the women’s club was then disbanded in 2005.

United’s absence from the women’s game after that was a stain on the club’s reputation, not least because it is thought that one of the reasons was a perceived lack of profitability and no financial motivation to operate a senior women’s team.

But despite not running a first-team at all for 13 long years until 2018 when the club finally saw sense, youth operations still continued for girls up to the age of 16 and United were producing female talents that were ultimately going on to play for other clubs at senior level.

But when a United women’s team was finally reformed, a number of those players returned to their roots. What is has allowed is for United to name at least one home-grown player in every matchday squad ever since the current version of the senior women’s team was created three years ago.

That is already three whole seasons of players who learned their trade in the United academy ranks representing the first-team and keeping the ‘United way’ very much alive.

Of the original squad that was put together in 2018, Ella Toone, Katie Zelem, Millie Turner, Kirsty Hanson, Emily Ramsey, Fran Bentley, Naomi Hartley had all previously spent time in the United youth ranks before having to start their senior careers elsewhere.

All except Hartley are still at the club now. Toone, Zelem and Turner are among the first names on the teamsheet and have been all been called up by England since re-joining United. Hanson is a Scotland international, while emerging goalkeeper Ramsey recently attended an England camp.

United’s female youth teams have also since continued to develop and produce new players that are on the fringes on the first-team ready to try and breakthrough in the near future, helping to secure the legacy of home-grown players and extend the record for years to come.

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