sport and being part of it should be fun – that’s crucial for me from whatever age, be it five years old or just outside the first team. Everybody who is involved, the coaching staff and the players, should be enjoying it because it’s a wonderful industry to be involved in and playing is only a small part of your life. It should be the most enjoyable part of your life if you love playing football. If you want to do something else afterwards or if you’re still involved in the game, it’s never as good as playing.
Some players appear to be late developers at the moment – is the game changing in that respect?
Well, players are playing for longer now like Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand for example. They are tending to play for longer and squad sizes have changed. You’re still looking to say is there a pathway and certainly, at this club, this pathway is for a five-year-old to eventually get into the Manchester United team.
If you look at the 2011 FA Youth Cup team, many players from that generation are really progressing, aren’t they?
At present there are two elements to what we are trying to do. One is to produce players for Manchester United – that’s our global mission. We want to develop them as human beings. Secondly, we are confident that at the time they get to those ages, if they choose that’s what they want, they will get a career in the game. So players that you could say have failed here because they’re not playing in the first team, are nonetheless having a great life for themselves at other football clubs. That gives you satisfaction too. All of us are involved in playing a little part, but the player makes himself. Nobody can make a player – no doubt about it – but you’re able to give him the platform to get to those places.
What are your thoughts on the new Under-19 UEFA Youth League?
It's fine. In terms of the age-group format, it’s something we could consider in England – to change to January birthdays [rather than have the age cut-off in the summer]. We currently have two distinct squads at United – Warren Joyce’s Under-21s and Paul