The Dale Farm Milk Cup has been dealt a major blow with the shock news Manchester United will not be taking part in this year’s tournament.
The English giants have been a mainstay of the competition going back over 25 years, famously providing a launching pad for some of their biggest names of all, including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville.
However, tournament organisers confirmed at the weekend the Old Trafford outfit would not be taking part this year, despite confirming their participation earlier this year.
In a double whammy, United and Northern Ireland rising star Paddy McNair was to have made the draw for this year’s July 26-31 event at the Odyssey in Belfast yesterday (Tuesday) but that has been postponed until a replacement for United can be found.
The news is a massive blow for the youth football tournament and could have implications on the competitions. Senior officials though were reluctant to express anything more than their ‘disappointment’ publicly.
However, one tournament insider told a daily newspaper they were ‘furious’ after receiving the call.
“To say we are annoyed is an understatement. We are absolutely furious at the way this was done,” they said.
“United’s priorities are their prerogative and we fully accept that. We would have been disappointed but would fully have understood if they had informed us from the outset that they would not be coming instead of like this.
“We received confirmation in writing of their entry over two months ago and planning is at an advanced stage. The timing is the biggest kick in the teeth here... but United will be replaced and the Milk Cup will go on. The tournament is bigger than one club and we will demonstrate that.”
The United phone call was followed by a brief statement in which the club explained: “After a thorough assessment of the pre-season training needs of the first team and a detailed assessment of the medical impact of that plan on the reserves, Manchester United has decided not to enter a team in the Dale Farm Milk Cup.”
Tournament chairman Victor Leonard responded: “This decision is a shock to us and will come as a huge blow to the legions of United supporters in the Province.
“We had written confirmation from them that they would be competing and the fact they have gone back on their word is extremely disappointing.
“We know Paddy McNair was keenly anticipating his role with us on Tuesday but permission for his participation was cancelled.
“We have enjoyed a great relationship with the managers and staff at Old Trafford over many years, particularly during Sir Alex’s tenure and also his successor David Moyes. We have made several good friends in the Youth Academy in that time who always espoused the importance of the Dale Farm Milk Cup in the development of their players.
“Sir Alex often spoke about that on his visits to the tournament.
“It gives us all a great sense of pride that many United players who competed at our event went on to become successful at the highest levels of the game.
“We still have an excellent line up for 2015 with all five continents represented and two Spanish clubs, Real Sociedad and Malaga, with us for the first time.”