For many Manchester United starlets, the trip to Northern Island for the Milk Cup, now known as the Super Cup, is a rite of passage. The competition has been the breeding ground for talents such as David Beckham and, more recently, Marcus Rashford.
The Red Devils are a common feature of the tournament.
A recent visit with current club Portadown left on-loan Ondrej Mastny nostalgic for the 2016 edition of the tournament (via Manchester Evening News). The occasion was the catalyst for the young keeper’s move to United.
The rise and rise of Mastny
The United youngster is eager to get regular game time in the senior team. 21-year-old Mastny is focused on the present more than anything else, following a series of injuries that have slowed his progress. The Czech Republic shot-stopper was a regular for the Red Devils during their 2020 FA Youth Cup campaign. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the rising star also featured for the senior team traveling to Norwich and Wolves as the third-choice keeper.
Training and traveling with the first team gave Mastny invaluable experience. Some of his youth team peers (Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Elanga) have graduated to the senior side.
Regarding the breakthroughs made by his contemporaries, the goalie says:
“It’s different in my position.”
“They usually go league by league and step by step unless you are someone like Donnarumma. But it is great to see them (Garnacho and Elanga) playing. There is a pathway.”
Mastny’s journey began at second-tier Czech club Vysocina Jihlava. He impressed, earning him a place in the national Academy set-up, eventually leading him to Northern Ireland and, ultimately, United.
Memories of his career path are vivid. The keeper recalls:
“I was 15 and played in the Super Cup.”
“After the tournament, I had a call from Man United, and in 2018 I started at United.”
Despite being away from family, Mastny rolled up his sleeves and went to work. He impressed. He was a regular for the Under-18 side and soon graduated to become the first choice for the Under-23s. Quality performances also earned the young keeper first-team call-ups in 2020.
At that point, Mastny looked poised to enjoy a promising career at Old Trafford. He still might, but he has been temporarily hindered by injury.
“I was very unlucky with injuries,” he recalls.
“That stopped me the most. It wasn’t just one thing repeating itself; it was always something different – dislocated figures, my back. It was frustrating, and I didn’t get much continuous football. It was stop-start. Hopefully, that is behind me now.
“After injuries and all the hard times I have had to overcome, my main goal is to play as much as possible. I am not thinking too much into the future, with football it is hard to do. I just want to play as much as possible.”
Mastny’s stint in Northern Ireland has granted him his wish.
His journey has taken many twists and turns, encountered many bumps and challenges. For now, the youngster can focus on what he loves – playing football.