Scott McTominay has spoken of the importance of playing in the UEFA Youth League as a youngster coming through the ranks at Manchester United.
Nicky Butt’s side will face Liverpool in the last 16 of this year’s competition after finishing second in their group behind FC Basel.
The likes of Tyrell Warren, Indy Boonen, Joshua Bohui and Angel Gomes have all played an important role in guiding Man United to the knockout phases, with the latter’s performances meriting a place on the bench against Yeovil Town in the FA Cup.
“I was part of that as well and a lot of other players like Axel [Tuanzebe], Tim Fosu-Mensah and Marcus Rashford were too. It educates footballers and makes you more mature as a person.
“I actually watched the game with [Under-23s midfielder] Callum Whelan. It was a tough one for the boys. It was a qualifying match for the last 16, so it was vitally important for them to get through to that.
“It’s a competition which is so valuable – the experience of going away, travelling with the first team and being a part of different surroundings and playing against different cultures, which they might not have expected in a really tough match [against Brodarac].”
The 17 to 20 period is vital time for any player. This is when you start to build connections with potential first team partners and hone the technical apparatus that will serve as a platform for the rest of your career.
For English players, however, the lack of minutes on the pitch during this time sets them miles behind players from, say, Germany or Spain, where policies are put in place to ensure youngsters play next to each other regularly.
But the UEFA Youth League, first introduced in 2013, serves as a vital chance for youngsters to grow accustomed to the feeling of playing abroad, of playing against sides that go about their business differently, of learning new ways to get the better of your opponent.
The English game, as an inverse to the country’s current political direction, needs to internationalise itself if it is to grow, and the younger this happens the better.