Nicky Butt forwards FA Youth Cup idea and discusses loans


What do you do with the social media? Do you teach them about it, because it’s a bit different to when we grew up? 
“I haven’t got a clue about social media. It’s taken me two hours to get on this call, to be honest with you! They do have lessons on it. We have that player-care system, that’s been put together now. It incorporates social media, all the stuff they should and shouldn’t do. They get told what they can post, what they can’t post, at what age they can. Obviously rules get broken, as young people and people in general do push the boundaries a little bit, but yeah, you’d like to think that they’d make a mistake and they’d make another one, and then they won’t make a third one. The thing is with social media, I’m not on it, but most of you are, you put it out there and you just can’t get rid of it. You can make a mistake in normal life and you can just pass it off as a mistake, I didn’t say it or I didn’t mean it, but once you do it on there, you’re dead. So yeah, we definitely do that. We have introductions into it, what to expect. If you’re going to a tournament, don’t text where you are, don’t text who you’re in the room with, don’t be sending tweets about where you are and what you’re doing. It’s just fundamental rules about what to do. It’s a different world to when we grew up, but we’d have rules about where to go, where not to go, when to go out, when not to go out, what to drive, what not to drive, things like that. It just evolves. In 20 years, we’ll all be sat here, hopefully not in lockdown again, but we’ll be sat here talking about a total different problem that we’ve got. I remember us coming through and people like Robbo and Steve Bruce and they’re all laughing, talking about how different it is for us and how it must be so hard for us to go into Manchester. There were about eight bars in Manchester at the time, it was hard, so now it is a lot bigger and, in 10 years, it’ll be even bigger, so we’ve just got to keep them on their toes, let them make their mistakes, but shut them down when they do.”

Nicky, you spoke about the pathway into the first team for young players. You can see Brandon and Mason have grasped that this season. What do you make of their progress and the quality they have? 
“Yeah, I think it’s our job to make young men who can cope in the first team. When you get into the first team, it’s not purely about talent. Talent will get you so far, but when you get into the first team, it’s more about your character and how you can cope with making mistakes. Everyone can cope when it’s going well, it’s the easiest thing on the planet to go out on a football pitch when you’re doing well and cope then. I think the hard part’s giving the ball away when you’re having a bad 10 minutes and losing 1-0, that kind of thing. We put a big emphasis on building character, the lads you spoke about there have got massive character. Brandon’s got a huge character and he’s a very good footballer. If we’re being honest and putting tick-boxes together, his tick-box will be in his characteristics box, it wouldn’t be in his left foot or his crossing. It would be his drive, determination and character. We put a massive emphasis on that and if we can do that and then bring out the natural talent that gets them to Man United, it’s massive. Every player that gets into the Academy has to be talented, or they don’t get through that barrier at the gates. They’ve got a bit of talent, a bit of something there. When they get into United, whether it’s at 10, 11, 12, 13 you evolve that talent and you learn from the great coaches in the Academy. But, first and foremost, you’ve got to have character to stay in there. If you stay in that building for five, 10, 15 years you’ve got to have unbelievable character and mentality, otherwise you’re going to die.”

Is it difficult for players to keep their feet on the ground when they get into the first team? Like you mentioned Brandon there, or Mason who’s got 12 goals and people obviously noticed that… 
“I think that work then is just the last bit of it. The work is put in from 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. We take them away on tours from young ages. It’s not just about football, it’s about being away from parents. It’s about being respectful in a different environment, and respecting other cultures and so on. I think when you get to make your debut, you should be a sound person. You’re all going to make mistakes. People are going to be screaming at me – I made loads of mistakes. You’ve got to do that, but when they get there and they do well, keeping their feet on the ground is the job of the people they’re playing with, the coaches and obviously their parents. You hope that together, as a team, you can draw that kid back in if he starts getting carried away with himself. We’re fortunate that they don’t, not in front of us anyway. They might do in front of kids their own age, but who doesn’t at 17, 18 at Man United? I’d defy anyone to make their debut at United, get put in the paper at 16, 17, 18 and not get a little bit carried away. Everyone does, it’s natural. But you’ve got to realise that you’re not a player at this club until you’ve played 50 games, I don’t think.” I

It’s something we ask everyone who comes on Nicky: what was Maysie like in the dressing room?
“Maysie was brilliant. Honestly, he was. Maysie was great when he first came in. I remember him coming in. What year was it again, mate, 1991? 1994? Unbelievable. I remember Maysie coming in and at The Cliff we had a red Mercedes. Really nice kid comes in and you think that’s a big signing from Blackburn. He’s like an old man, he doesn’t speak to you much and he drives an old Mercedes. You think he’s really, really sensible, really good guy. I’m going to learn a lot from him. And then I spoke to Alan Shearer and he said: how mad’s that Maysie? I was like: what are you on about? He said he’s wild, Maysie! And I was thinking he’s not said a word for about six or seven weeks! All of a sudden, we had a bit of a do together and the real Maysie came out. Ever since then, he’s been a part of the club. And that dressing room, you had to have character, you had to have leaders on and off the pitch to bring you together and Maysie was all of that. Unfortunately he had injuries after his early days, but he was an amazing player for us. And the character he brought to the changing room was massive. He is good at pranks.

Did he ever prank you? 
“He did, but I can’t of one stand-out one as a prank! It was a ruthless changing room we had, and I think that’s why we were so successful. Everyone was having pranks with each other, there were never any cliques. Obviously, there were little cliques here and there but we were all together. The biggest thing I remember as a kid was we’d go out together. If we didn’t have a game at the weekend, we’d go out. Every single one would turn up. All the first-team players looking over your shoulder, people who were on your poster on your bedroom wall three years earlier going for a drink or a bite to eat, then you’ve got the younger lads coming in. It was amazing at the time and you just feel fortunate to be in football with that group of lads. Yeah, it was a good time.”


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