Wed, 01 Feb 2023

By Vivek Singh PrabhakarPanaji (Goa) [India], December 2 (ANI): One of Premier League's marquee clubs, Manchester United have had a topsy-turvy performance in the last few seasons. A constant change of managers hasn't helped but it finally looks like the team is in a much better place under current manager Erik Ten Hag.

The team has put together a string of good performances over the past couple of months and the club's superstar goalkeeper David De Gea feels that the club is ready to turn over a new leaf with its new playing style with Ten Hag at the helm.

"I think this year we want to dictate games and want to have the ball. We are looking to play from the back and press teams, pressing high in the opponent's half. We are trying to keep the ball in the opponent's half, try to score goals and win games," Manchester United's goalkeeper De Gea told ANI.

De Gea is in India with teammates Anthony Elanga and Donny van de Beek to launch the third season of United We Play, a grassroots football initiative by Apollo Tyres, supported by Manchester United to encourage young football talent from across the country.

The 32-year De Gea, who hails from Spain, has been with Manchester United since the 2011 season and considers United's 2013 Premier League win as one of his most memorable moments at the club.

"I have many good memories of the club but if I have to choose one, it would be when we won the Premier League in 2013. That was one of the best moments in the club for me," he said.

Talking about the improvement in the club's performances, De Gea said, "The beginning of the season was a bit tough. After that, we started playing excellent football, winning games. We had a new manager, and new players, so we needed a bit of time to know the way that the manager wants us to play, but I think we are in the right direction winning games and playing really well."Encouraging youngsters and promoting grassroots football is of great value for progressing on the football map and De Gea acknowledges this. On the importance of grassroots football programmes, he said, "I think United We Play is a great initiative for the kids in India. Just to give them the opportunity to play football, to enjoy it together and to encourage them to play football is great and we are here just to be an inspiration for them as well. So yeah, it's a great initiative."The club enjoys overwhelming support in India as well and the players are the first ones to recognize it. Sweden's Anthony Elanga who has made a mark this season for Manchester United said, "It has been a great experience coming to India and seeing all the fans coming out to support us. I am really happy to be here, and I even had coconut water for the first time today.""It has been nice from the first moment when I arrived. I think the place is really nice and also it's nice to see how big the club is here and everywhere in India as well. I am enjoying myself," added Donny van de Beek.

When asked about the club's performances, van de Beek, a 25-year-old midfielder of great promise said, "We just have to work harder on the way how we want to play. So yeah, we work on it every time. And yeah, then if you work hard to train out every day, I think the results will come."The Swedish winger, Elanga, has been a product of the famed Manchester United academy and youth programme. About making his way up through the ranks and playing for the first team, Elanga said, "Coming through the Academy wasn't easy. There were a lot of challenges along the way, but when you work hard and just keep your head down and keep your focus on the goal that you want to achieve and anything is possible."The first two seasons of "United We Play" received an overwhelming response with over 10,000 players from the country participating in the hybrid programme comprising on-ground trials and virtual sessions with Manchester United Soccer Schools' coaches.

De Gea, Elanga and van de Beek, who were on their maiden visit to India, officially launched and kickstarted the activities for the third season of United We Play programme. The third edition of the United We Play programme will have a Virtual Masterclass with Manchester United Soccer School (MUSS) coaches in 15 cities from January to March 2023. This will be followed by the on-ground scouting of footballing talent in 12 Indian cities and 3 cities in the APMEA region, in the months of March/April 2023. Around 8,500 - 10,000 young footballers are expected to take part in this edition, as per an official statement. (ANI)

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