Academy manager Brian McClair spoke to ManUtd.com about the importance of tournaments like the Manchester United Premier Cup on youth football development...
The young players are all physically fit and well drilled. What makes the difference between those who step up and those who don’t?
Having a great belief in themselves, chasing the dream they’ve always had and not giving in when they’re faced with adversity, which they will be at some stage, either when they’re playing – when they lose games or they lose form – or when they’re out injured, which is a big challenge in professional sport.
How easy is it to tell the ones who will make it?
It’s very difficult. Even up to the age of 22 or 23, when players are beginning to establish themselves in first teams, they can be brilliant one day but rubbish the next. Their level of performance in training can go up and down on a daily basis.
How do you prepare your squad for a tournament like this?
It’s a bit more complicated for the English teams because of the birthday situation – we pick squads based on the players’ ages in September, whereas everyone else has January-based age groups. So ourselves and Newcastle have a more difficult challenge in that we’re trying to weld together a team from two different age groups. That’s a great challenge for the coaches involved and indeed the players.
How beneficial do you think a tournament like this is for a young player?
It’s immeasurable. Every age group at United will attend some kind of tournament every year, whether it’s a small-sided tournament for the under-9 age group, through to a tournament like this in Europe or somewhere else in the world for the under-18s.
Does the approach to football differ across Europe?
I don’t think the approach differs. I think the interpretation of the laws might be different, when you look at some of the things that go on during the games in this tournament! But that again is a challenge for our players, to understand that other cultures and the way they look at things are not better or worse, they’re just different.