Manchester United director Sir Bobby Charlton led the opening ceremony for the world finals of the Manchester United Premier Cup (MUPC), which took place at Carrington and Old Trafford last week. The United legend – alongside tournament alumni Kiko Macheda and Ben Amos – were present at the draw and opening ceremony for the tournament, which featured 20 of the best under-15 teams in the world.
Following four days of competition Pachucha FC of Mexico beat South Africa’s Orlando Pirates 1-0 in the final at Old Trafford on Saturday. United’s age group side finished 12th after Tom Martin’s Under-15s lost twice in the group stage of the competition to drop out early.
The Premier Cup was developed by Nike in 1993 as a grassroots tournament but evolved to become the world’s premier Under-15s event in 2003 when United added the club’s name to the competition. Now in its 18th year the tournament has grown considerably in strength, with more than 8,000 teams from around the globe entering the regional qualification contest.
Indeed, 25 players who appeared in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa last year had previously competed in the MUPC, including six players from winners Spain. Alumni include, for example, Xavi Hernández, Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi, Barcelona new-boy Alexis Sanchez and Chelsea’s £50 million misfit Fernando Torres.
The tournament has also proven a fruitful hunting ground for United in the past, with Rafael and Fabio da Silva competing for Fluminese in the 2005 competition, which took place in Hong Kong. United signed the pair in no small part on the back of performances in the tournament.
“There have been some fantastic players playing at MUPC over the years,” said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“It’s a great chance for youngsters to express themselves and share their skills. But the great thing to it I think is the mix of cultures – there are teams from South America, from China, from all countries throughout the world. I really think it benefits young people to mix with other cultures and get to understand each other; for me that’s one of the real benefits of this tournament.”
The tournament format divided 20 teams into four groups of five teams, with United facing Fenerbahçe, Hannover 96, Bangkok CC, and Pachuca in the group stages. It proved too much Martin’s outfit though, which was hammered 6-1 by Fenerbahçe on the opening day before drawing with eventual winners Pachuca. United then beat Hannover 2-0 on day two, before losing to Bangkok by the same scoreline. The Reds finished third in the group and failed to make the knock-out stages.
“The standard at Premier Cup has always been high and it’s no different this year. Overall the boys gave everything, and we can’t ask for more than that,” admitted United coach Martin.
The knock-out stages offered some competitive football, with Pachuca beating a strong Chelsea side at Carrington in the semi-final; the London side came into the match having yet to concede a goal. Meanwhile, Orlando Pirates beat Brazil’s EC Bahia 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in normal time. Victory earned the Pirates a minor place in history as the first African team to reach the MUPC final.
The final, which took place at Old Trafford in front of more than 3,000 spectators, saw Pachuca edge to victory over the Pirates. Pachuca’s Ochoa Chavez made the most of a long ball, placing a header into the top right hand corner after just two minutes to claim victory for the Mexicans.
Did the next Messi, Xavi and Tevez appear in the tournament? That much is impossible to tell but once again the cream of the world’s Under-15s have offered a taste of the future.
Fair Play Award: EC Bahia
Most Valuable Player: Bakkali, PSV
Golden Boot: Aydin, Fenerbahce
- Pachuca FC
- Orlando Pirates
- EC Bahia
- Chelsea FC
- Right to Dream
- Boca Juniors
- Valencia CF
- PSV Eindhoven
- Universidad de Chile
- FC metz
- Manchester United
- Cosmos Academy West
- Catania Calcio
- Kyoto Sanga FC
- Bangkok Christian
- Ulsan Hyundai MS
- Hannover 96
- Hubei FA
- Onehunga Sports