Belfast Telegraph

Milk Cup chiefs will meet Manchester United to discuss the future

By Keith Bailie

Dale Farm Milk Cup officials are set to meet Manchester United in September in an attempt to persuade the English giants to enter next summer's tournament.

United pulled out of this year's competition last month, forcing the organisers to postpone the draw at short notice.

The controversial decision ended United's 25-year long association with the famous north coast youth tournament.

However, event officials will discuss the future with United later this year. The Milk Cup committee are also considering a new format, which they hope could reinvigorate the tournament.

Milk Cup Chairman Victor Leonard said: "Manchester United asked for a meeting and they're coming over here to talk to us, which is nice.

"The situation with United is a little more complex than some people think. Their players in that age group are now playing for their Under-21s and many of those players will go on tour or train with the first team in pre-season.

"There are some other difficulties with United and their Academy. Brian McClair, the Academy Director, has just left and there have been a few other changes.

"This has all kicked in, in the last few weeks, which is a bit unfortunate for the Dale Farm Milk Cup.

"We're now talking to the powers that be at Manchester United to find out exactly what their problems were.

"They've asked for a meeting with us in September and we're happy to accommodate them."

Manchester United weren't the only notable absentee at yesterday's Milk Cup draw. The popular international Elite Section has been discontinued after 19 years. Northern Ireland won the Under-19 tournament on four occasions, including last year.

International legends David Healy, who made yesterday's draw, and Aaron Hughes were part of the Northern Ireland squad that won the competition in 1997.

Leonard explained that there were practical difficulties with running an Under-19 competition, however the committee are hoping to launch a new age group to replace the Elite Section next summer.

"The difficulty we've had with the Elite Section is getting players released from their clubs for international duty as our tournament does not fall during an international break," Leonard commented.

"I've talked to Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill at length about the situation. Last year Stephen Craigan was unable to get a number of players released from their clubs.

"The Elite Section players were normally around 19 years of age and many of them are involved in pre-season training or on a pre-season tour with their clubs.

"So the Elite Section will not be played this year but we are hoping to replace it with a new format for 2016.

"We had hoped to launch the new format in 2015 but it just wasn't possible. It will be something different but I can't go into detail at this stage.

"It's just a matter of refining and tweaking the tournament a little bit more so it's ready for launch next summer."

Although details of the new format have not been confirmed, the rumour mill suggests it may be an Under-21 tournament featuring both English Premier League clubs and a team closer to home.

Belfast Telegraph


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