Manchester United will get back to Milk Cup business this summer, attempting to win a fifth Premier title at Ulster’s world famous international youth tournament.
The Red Devils hold the record of appearing in 10 Premier finals over the years and are signed up for another shot at the prize they first won back in 1991 when David Beckham, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes were in the side that beat Hearts at Coleraine Showgrounds.
Also making a return are Everton who have lifted five Junior titles in seven appearances, three in the last four years.
“We have enjoyed some wonderful players at both clubs over the years,” says Milk Cup chairman Victor Leonard. “It has been an honour to host two of the biggest clubs in European football and their support for us is something we value highly.”
United’s links go way back to 1989 when they debuted thanks to the persuasive powers of former Celtic star Bertie Peacock, a founding father of the tournament, who was a hero of United’s Glaswegian-born boss Sir Alex Ferguson who used to watch the Coleraine man play at Parkhead.
“United’s arrival was another big plus for us along with Liverpool and Newcastle United who had already blazed a trail at the Milk Cup,” recalls Victor.
United reached the Premier final at their first attempt but lost to the Magpies. Since 2007 United have been to five deciders, with back-to-back successes in 2008 and 2009. They lost out to an impressive Aspire Academy side last year.
“Everton have a long association with us and are probably the most successful team at the tournament,” said Victor.
“Their manager, David Moyes, has been a solid backer of what we are doing. He has Portrush connections through his late mother and brought his senior team to Coleraine to play a Northern Ireland select when we celebrated our 25th anniversary.
“We have witnessed players of he calibre of Phil Jagielka, James Vaughan, Victor Anichebe, Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert in their junior ranks over the years and they have terrific support from fans in Northern Ireland.”
Spurs and Bolton are the other English sides in the Premier event while Everton and Liverpool are joined in the Junior section by Ipswich Town, Swindon Town, Brentford and Watford.
BBC’s Blackstaff studios in Belfast will host the draw for the Elite, Premier and Junior competitions on Friday, May 25, with the action starting on Saturday, July 21, when Ulster County teams hosting their opening matches in the Junior and Premier competitions.