Young S'poreans get a taste of Manchester and Red Devils magic

A GROUP of young Singaporeans not only got to train with Manchester United's young starlets yesterday - they did so in typical Mancunian weather.

Under a heavy downpour, 20 young recipients of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) from Beyond Social Services were hosted to an hour-long football clinic at Jalan Besar.

United academy director and club legend Brian McClair heartily greeted the Singaporeans at the Epson United Spirit Soccer Clinic II, quipping: "Welcome to Manchester!"

The Under-19 Red Devils are in town to compete at the NexLions Cup, which kicks off today.

Yesterday, Alex Ferguson's future fledglings showcased their skills in games with wide-eyed locals. Despite playing in muddy conditions, the trickery of 17-year-old midfielder Mats Daehli - who was the club's young player of the year last season - was apparent to all in attendance.

"To see future stars up close was truly an eye-opening experience," said ITE Simei student Ryan Syaffiq, 17.

Speaking to participants later, former midfield maestro McClair shared United's youth-first policy that has produced the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and, more recently, Tom Cleverley.

He said: "We always believe and invest in young players. That has happened for 60 years and it will happen for the next 60.

"We want to see home-grown players shine and will give them every opportunity."

United education officer Dave Bushell, who has schooled the likes of Darren Fletcher and Danny Welbeck, even had grooming advice for the SPMF recipients. He told the group, some of whom sported spiky cuts and shoulder-length curls: "Some of you have what I call 'interesting' haircuts - remember, you must try not to be noticeable off the field.

"I tell every United youngster the same thing - listen, learn and work hard at everything, and show respect to everybody."