This week, Under-15 teams from around the world are contesting the Manchester United Premier Cup. Here, Reds skipper Gary Neville shares his experiences of youth football.
I can't think of a bad word to say about youth tournaments. They're fantastic for your development as a footballer. I played in quite a few and my main memories surround the Milk Cup in Ireland, which we won, and the Blue Stars tourament in Switzerland.
They were brilliant experiences because we were playing teams like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Spartak Moscow. Kids from Bolton and Salford play football differently to kids from Barcelona and Sao Paulo and these tournaments expose you to different systems, skill levels and tactics. That's something you have to get used to when you graduate into the first-team, so something like the MUPC can ony help you.
As a young lad I’d play against teams from Salford, Rochdale, Bolton... we hardly played kids from London, let alone Brazil. I was never exposed to different styles of football before I came to United and played at youth tournaments. And there's no doubt in my mind that they helped me develop into a better player. A lot of players I played alongside in those competitions have gone on to play first-team football, whether that’s at United or somewhere else.
I'm keeping an eye on this year's Premier Cup and I’d like to think the best team will win. But that’s not always the case. Luck is obviously a factor, particularly in knockout football. Team spirit is also incredibly important, while the draw can also influence the results. Form, injuries, the weather... they all play their part. Anybody could win this tournament.