Conor Devlin: Training with the first team at Manchester United taught me so much!

Photograph owned by and courtesy of Larne Football Club

You are a graduate of the Manchester United youth academy. Sum up your experience of Manchester United as a whole?

It was an incredible time. I was very young when I went over and to be honest I didn’t know what I was getting into. I was aware of how massive the club is but only now at almost thirty years of age do I fully realise just how special the club was.

I learned so much at the club that has held me in good stead until this day.

The coaching staff and the facilities were phenomenal. I was used to playing on park pitches as a kid then when I arrived at United they have twenty outdoor pitches, multiple indoor pitches and a gym that has everything you could ever need in it.

Being in and around the club every day really did help me progress because every player made incredible sacrifices to be the best that they could be. I’ve always taken that on board from my time there.

You worked under Ole Gunnar Solskjær during your time in Manchester. What was he like to work with at that time as he was establishing himself as a coach?

“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer” by joncandy is licensed underCC BY-SA 2.0

I was very fortunate to have him as my manager at that time. He is a fantastic person who is very genuine and was ideal for us as young players. He gave a lot of his experience to us by coaching us every day and also sharing some incredible stories from his playing career to educate us on how to deal with the ups and downs of football.

He wasn’t shy in telling you what he expected of you as a player and what the expectations of Manchester United are.

Did you ever have the opportunity to train with the first team at that time?

Yes, I was very fortunate that Edwin Van der Sar was an older goalkeeper and as such didn’t train as much as he would have in his prime so as a younger goalkeeper you’d have an opportunity to train with the first team at times.

“Edwin Van Der Sar, Manchester United FC” bysocialBedia is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I worked with Edwin, Tomasz Kuszczak, Ben Foster and Tom Heaton. They were all fantastic goalkeepers and ideal to work with as a younger goalkeeper.

We also had some of the best players in world football in the dressing room at the time and when I look back now I’m so thankful that I had an opportunity to train alongside them.

The standard of training was frighteningly quick and you had to be on your game at all times. The players could also hit the ball at immense speed which kept you on your toes as a goalkeeper and took me by surprise in my first few weeks.

They punish mistakes ruthlessly as players and that’s why they are top levels players.

Published by Callum McFadden

Football CFB founder. Freelance football writer & broadcaster of over 350 interviews with professional players and managers across all levels of football.

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