The Manchester United Premier Cup World Finals are set to kick-off tomorrow with some of the most talented young footballers in the world due to take part.
Just 20 places were up for grabs at this illustrious Under-15 tournament and over 8,000 teams from 43 countries have competed against one another in local, national, and regional tournaments to claim one of these exclusive spots in the hopes of being one of the two teams who’ll get the chance to play on the hallowed Old Trafford turf on Saturday 9 August.
United have been drawn in Group C along with Feyenoord, Sanfrecce, Tigres, and Mamelodi Sundowns.
Internaçional, Chelsea, Hertha Berlin, Malmö, AS Roma, Waitakere City, Valencia, Shangdong Luneng, Joongdong, Assumption Thonburi, Right to Dream Academy, Dynamo Moscow, Weston FC, Rosario Central and Sturm Graz are the remaining finalists.
Over two million young players have taken part in the Premier Cup over the last 21 years and 38 graduates of the competition took part in this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
One of those graduates now wears the red shirt of United. Mexican striker, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez spoke of the experience that playing in such a prestigious competition at such a young age.
“I have really great memories of this competition with Chivas – although we didn’t reach the World Finals that year – we learned a lot about ourselves and each other,” he said.
“These young boys are winners already and so lucky to have the opportunity to showcase their skills on an international stage – at these amazing facilities – against the best young players in the world. The best advice I can give them is to continue to dream of the Old Trafford final, play with passion and, above all, enjoy their football.”
Of the participating teams this year, only Internaçional of Brazil have won it previously, although United were runners-up to Manchester City back in 2004.
The Premier Cup is widely recognised as a testing ground of young talent which teaches the coaches a lot about their young stars. AS Roma’s coach Federico Coppitelli is hoping to evaluate his own performance and “understand our team’s value at an international level”, while Tomokawu Iwanari, coach of United’s opponent’s Sanfrecce, is excited by the prospect of seeing his team “face international opposition for the first time.”
However, Marcelo Neveleff, coach of Weston FC, best summarises the goals of the competition: “My expectation is for each player to appreciate the importance of hard work, resilience and commitment to getting better. I am hopeful that each of the players will develop a deeper respect and appreciation for the love and passion required to play at a high level.”
Closer to home, United coach Tommy Martin feels the tournament will be a hugely beneficial experience for the Under-15s: “Our young boys feel incredibly privileged and humbled to welcome teams from all around the world to MUPC. There will be so much we can learn from each other. Every team is here to win – and that mentality is important in football – but it is crucial to remember to enjoy the experience, enjoy our football and enjoy whatever the next few days may bring.”