Neumayr: The triumph with Manchester United was an unforgettable experience

The German footballer Markus Neumayr moved from Eintracht Frankfurt to Manchester United’s youth team in 2003 at the age of 17. Two years later, he won the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup™ with the Red Devils.

This was followed by a career with Duisburg, Bellinzona, Thun, Vaduz and Luzern, among others. He also enjoyed stints in Belgium, Turkey and IR Iran. Currently, he is the U‑13 assistant coach for Basel. During this interview, Neumayr tells us about his experience at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup.

Markus let’s talk about your move to Manchester United in 2003. You were 17 years old. Why the move?

Neumayr: At the time, I was with Eintracht Frankfurt. I was also playing for the German youth team regularly. At some point, I got an interesting offer from England. Manchester United approached me asking whether I was interested in a trial with the club. I’d already had offers from Chelsea, Arsenal and Middlesbrough, and other German clubs too. But at the time, Manchester United were the club for me. I was in awe of their players: David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and the list goes on. So, I went ahead with the trial with Manchester United, which turned out to be mutually satisfactory. Shortly afterwards, I got an offer and there was no doubt in my mind: I wanted to play for them. Manchester United are a team that have played in the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup several times. Before taking part in it, you weren’t familiar with the tournament, right?

No, not really. I hadn’t heard of it. With Manchester United, we often took part in tournaments. We would be in Hong Kong, then in Dallas, and so on. I didn’t know about the tournament at the time, but when we came to Zurich to play, I quickly realised how important it was. Many great teams took part, as well as many players who would later become big stars. It was incredibly well-organised and is without a doubt one of the best tournaments at which I played in my youth. 

Who were your team-mates at the time?

There was Gerard Piqué, who now plays for Barcelona, Giuseppe Rossi, the Italian striker who later scored many goals in Serie A and in Spain with Villarreal before his many injuries, Danny Simpson, who won the Premier League in 2016 with Leicester City, and  the Northern Ireland player Jonny Evans, who still plays for Leicester City. Those were some of my team-mates. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 4:  Markus Neumayr of Manchester United in action during the Manchester United Under 19s v Nottingham Forest Under 19s at Carrington on October 4, 2003 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

And in 2005, you won the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup with Manchester United.

Yes, it was incredible! We had an outstanding team. In the decisive group match, we won against a strong Sporting Lisbon side featuring players like Nani, and therefore qualified as group winners for the final. In the final, we defeated the Stockholm club AIK 2-0 at the Letzigrund Stadium and secured the trophy. It was an unforgettable experience. I would say that the 2005 victory with Manchester United was definitely a highlight for me. 

What other memories do you have of the tournament in 2005?

The time at the hotel with the team and also celebrating our victory. I still have a few fond memories. I also remember the old Letzigrund Stadium. Later, when I played with Vaduz and Luzern against FC Zurich and Grasshoppers at the new stadium, I thought back on it all. It automatically all comes flooding back to you when you’re at a stadium where you won a tournament. 

The Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup was always of great significance for Manchester United. Sir Bobby Charlton and David Beckham both played in it, to name but a couple. The Red Devils have always been particularly proud of winning this tournament. How do you account for that?

Yes, that’s right. When you play for Manchester United, you always want to win, and somehow, it’s expected of you. As I said, we played in various tournaments, but still Manchester United always saw the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup as being particularly prestigious. Teams would look forward to playing in the tournament, because they knew that they would be up against good opposition.

Your current club Basel are playing in the tournament this year. What would you say their chances are?

I’ll personally attend the tournament and watch the matches. I’m of course very excited to see Basel play. It’s a great opportunity for the young players to show off their skills against opposition from other countries and see where they stand. We all know that such matches are a whole different ball game. I can’t wait to see how far they get. The competition is fierce.