As he swelters in the searing Antalya sunshine, training sessions on Manchester United’s wind and rain-swept Carrington pitches seem a world away for Angelo Henriquez. “I actually got to like England’s weather,” he told FIFA.com, laughing. “I’m finding this heat hard to get used to.”
Yet as distant as they might seem, it is to those wet and windy mornings in England’s north-west that the Chile forward will be casting his mind back to as he prepares to face England. After all, he could find himself lining up against three United team-mates: Larnell Cole, Thomas Thorpe and, crucially, goalkeeper Samuel Johnstone. The England No1 was one of the Three Lions’ most impressive performers in their 2-2 draw with Iraq and, having faced him often in training, Henriquez is aware that he is facing the most adept of adversaries.
“I know Sam very well and he is a very, very good keeper,” he said. “If I am going through against him, it will be an interesting situation. I know him well but he also knows me, so let’s see who comes out on top. We are sharing the same hotel here in Antalya and I have already met him and Larnell around the place, and we had a good chat. We weren’t joking too much about the game – just catching up really – and we all realise how important this is for our teams.
“Just from knowing these three United guys, I know England will be very tough opponents for us. I have already been speaking to my team-mates here about what to expect, and I hope they understand and are prepared for what is coming. The main thing with English players is their strength and their spirit - they never give up. We have to be ready to be as strong and as determined as they are.”
The need to catch up with his club colleagues was understandable, with Henriquez having spent the last five months of the English campaign on loan at Wigan Athletic. Faced with competition from the likes of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, the 19-year-old may yet head out on a similar deal this coming season as he seeks to establish himself in the English game. But while his £4m move from Universidad de Chile might not have yielded much in the way of first-team action as yet, Henriquez believes that he will face his adopted country a better player for his first season in the Premier League.
“I’ve already learned a lot there,” he said. “The main thing has been to work very hard physically because that side of the game is the big difference between England and South America. I definitely feel that I am a lot stronger for the experience and I already feel that I have benefited a lot, working at such a massive club and then going to Wigan and experiencing the Premier League with them.”
Tipped as one of Turkey 2013’s likely stars, Henriquez was uncharacteristically subdued in Chile’s opening match; a consequence, perhaps, of an illness that had been troubling him in the build-up to the tournament. Now fully recovered, the Manchester United striker insists that this sense of unfulfilled promise applies to his entire team, despite their accomplished 2-1 win over Egypt.
“It was a great result for us, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “We knew that Egypt are champions of Africa and a very strong team, so to start with a win was fantastic. But I also know we can do much more. Against Egypt, you only saw part of what Chile can do – it was incomplete.
"We know we have another level we can reach, and now we have to make sure that we get there in the games ahead. We should take confidence from winning our first match, but we must also stay completely concentrated and aim to play as close to the perfect game as possible.”
This same target of perfection was set by the striker’s team-mate, Bryan Rabello, in a FIFA.com interview before the tournament. And while it might sound overly ambitious, even unrealistic, Henriquez explains that it reflects the unabashed ambitions with which Chile have arrived at this U-20 showpiece. “Our target is to win the cup,” he said without hesitation. “That is what we came here to do, and what we are expecting to do.”
Such words betray a winner’s mentality and the assumption of the highest possible standards. Carrington and life under Sir Alex Ferguson might seem an age ago, but the lessons learned on those damp, chilly mornings have undoubtedly left their mark.