Reds look to create more Milk Cup magic
Posted by nickogs20 on July 26, 2010
The 2010 edition of the Northern Ireland Milk Cup kicks off today with United’s U17s bidding to win the Premier Section trophy for an unprecedented third successive year.
The Milk Cup is a regular fixture in the United academy calendar and is one of the most prestigious youth tournaments in world football, regularly attracting representation from the very biggest clubs in the game since its inception in 1983. The tournament features three age groups – Elite (U20 national sides), Premier (U17) and Junior (U15) – and takes place over five days in the Coleraine area of County Londonderry.
Past winners include United, Barcelona, Liverpool, Fluminense and Rangers, while players to have featured in the past include our own Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. There were 30 players at the 2002 World Cup who had played in the Milk Cup earlier in their career, and clubs from more than sixty different countries have entered the tournament over the last 27 years.
As usual, United will be competing in the Premier Section for U17s, a section they have won four times previously – most recently last year after an inspirational week from tournament top scorer and MVP Robbie Brady. The Reds also lifted the trophy in 2008, 2003 and in 1991, the latter with a side comprising names like Scholes, Beckham, Giggs and Neville.
The Premier section sees the 24 entrants (up from 20 last year) split into two groups, within which they each face two randomly selected sides from the same group over the first two days. After these two qualifying games each, the top four in each group go on to play for the Milk Cup, while the middle four compete for the Slemish Trophy and the bottom four compete for the Dunluce Trophy. The three separate tournaments progress in a knockout format, with quarter-finals, semi-finals and then finals over the next three days.
Matches are 70 minutes long – 35 minutes each way – and each competing team can name a maximum of 18 players in their squad, with coaches having the option of using up to five substitutes in each game. Full tournament regulations and rules can be found here.
Right, onto the specifics of this year’s event. United have been drawn in Group A alongside fellow English clubs Tottenham and Bolton, three of the six Northern Irish counties and a mix of sides from five other nations. If the Reds can make it through as one of the top four in Group A, the likes of Porto, South Coast Bayern and our affiliate club Desportivo Brasil lie in wait. The schedule for the first two days in the Premier section looks like this:
|3:30pm||Cherry Orchard vs Etoile Lusitana||The Warren, Portstewart|
|3:30pm||Queen of the South vs Aspire||Broughshane|
|5:00pm||Shamrock Rovers vs K.V. Mechelen||Castlerock|
|6:00pm||Manchester United vs Co. Tyrone||Showgrounds, Ballymena|
|7:00pm||Tottenham Hotspur vs Co. Londonderry||Showgrounds, Limavady|
|7:00pm||Bolton Wanderers vs Co. Armagh||Mullaghacall, Portstewart|
|2:00pm||Desportivo Brasil vs Cruz Azul||Mullaghacall, Portstewart|
|3:30pm||Belvedere vs Co. Fermanagh||Riada Stadium (2), Ballymoney|
|5:00pm||Hartlepool United vs Co. Down||Rugby Avenue Stadium, Coleraine|
|5:00pm||Donegal Schools vs Co. Antrim||Parker Avenue, Portrush|
|6:00pm||FC Porto vs Club Marcet||TBA|
|6:00pm||South Coast Bayern vs San Agustin||Riada Stadium, Ballymoney|
TUESDAY 27th JULY
|5:00pm||Etoile Lusitana vs Bolton Wanderers||Riada Stadium, Ballymoney|
|5:00pm||Co. Londonderry vs Shamrock Rovers||Rugby Avenue Stadium, Coleraine|
|5:00pm||County Armagh vs Cherry Orchard||Castlerock|
|5:00pm||Co. Tyrone vs Queen of the South||Parker Avenue, Portrush|
|7:00pm||K.V. Mechelen vs Tottenham Hotspur||Riada Stadium, Ballymoney|
|7:00pm||Aspire vs Manchester United||Showgrounds, Coleraine|
|3:30pm||San Agustin vs Donegal Schools||Broughshane|
|3:30pm||Cruz Azul vs Hartlepool United||Roe Mill, Limavady|
|5:00pm||Club Marcet vs Belvedere||TBA|
|7:00pm||Co. Antrim vs South Coast Bayern||Showgrounds, Ballymena|
|7:00pm||Co. Down vs Desportivo Brasil||Showgrounds, Limavady|
|7:00pm||Co. Fermanagh vs FC Porto||Mullaghacall, Portstewart|
United’s two opponents couldn’t be much more different, with local opposition in the form of County Tyrone on day one before something of a step into the unknown against Aspire on Tuesday. The Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence is based in the Qatari capital of Doha, and the first-team used the academy’s facilities when they jetted out to the Middle East in January for warm weather training.
Onto the group of players tasked with making it three in a row. All participating players must have been born on or after January 1st 1993, and with academy football in England operating with a similar ‘year group’ system to our schools, this means that the strength of United squad can differ from year to year depending on when the second-year scholars’ birthdays fall in the year. Last year just Robbie Brady and Joshua King had ‘late’ birthdays, but this time around the majority of the second years are still eligible, giving Paul McGuinness plenty of last year’s winning squad to choose from – indeed, ten of that group could have been included. As it is, just the eight will attempt to win a second Milk Cup winners’ medal – the full squad is listed below:
1. Liam Jacob
2. Bradley Anderson
3. Luke Giverin
4. Michele Fornasier
5. Sean McGinty
6. Tom Thorpe (c)
7. Tom Lawrence
8. Larnell Cole
9. John Cofie
10. Will Keane
11. Etzaz Hussain
12. Michael Keane
13. Joe Coll
14. Jack Barmby
15. Donald Love
16. Charni Ekangamene
17. Tyler Blackett
18. Luke Hendrie
That list differs slightly from the provisional squad named a couple of weeks ago, with Sam Johnstone, Alberto Massacci, Paul Pogba and Luke McCullough dropping out. Johnstone – who will presumably continue to share goalkeeping playing time in the reserves with Conor Devlin – is replaced by new scholar Liam Jacob, while schoolboys Bradley Anderson, Donald Love and Jack Barmby come in for the other three, who presumably are nursing injuries.
Picking the likely first XI is tricky, particularly at the centre of defence, where captain Tom Thorpe could be partnered by either Michele Fornasier or Sean McGinty, and on the flanks, where the only genuine winger is late call-up Barmby. Who starts at full-back and in the centre of midfield is open to some debate as well. The only relative safe bets are that Joe Coll will start in goal and Will Keane and John Cofie will form the front pairing. If my arm were to be twisted and I had to pick a team, it would be: Coll; M Keane, Thorpe, Fornasier, McGinty; Cole, Lawrence, Hussain, Barmby; W Keane, Cofie. Unlike last year however, when I got the lineup spot on in my preview, I have very little confidence in that prediction…
Highlights of each day of the tournament will be available on BBC interactive, via the red button and online, while live coverage of the Reds’ second game against Aspire will be shown live through the same channels thanks to the BBC’s Blast initiative. Live coverage of one of the semi-finals and the final will also be available, should United get that far.
In addition, you can view news, fixtures/results, photos, video clips and all sorts of other information about the tournament on the Official Milk Cup site, while it goes without saying that we’ll be extensively covering the competition throughout the week on both the blog and Twitter.