Furious backlash as Manchester United pull out of Milk Cup two days before draw
Manchester United have caused a furious backlash in Northern Ireland after they pulled out of the Milk Cup youth tournament.
United have been regulars at the tournament over the past 25 years, but the club have confirmed they will not take part this summer but pulled out in a shock move just two days before this year's draw.
"After a thorough assessment of the pre-season training needs of the first team and a detailed assessment of the medical impact of that plan on the reserves, Manchester United has decided not to enter a team in the Dale Farm Milk Cup," a statement from the club read.
Organisers of the tournament, which takes place across Northern Ireland, said they were "shocked" by the announcement as they claim they were told recently that United would be sending a team.
"We are disappointed by United's decision," tournament chairman Victor Leonard said in a statement.
"It is a shock to us and will come as a huge blow to the legions of United supporters in the Province who back the club over the week of our event.
"We had written confirmation from them that they would be competing and the fact they have gone back on their word is extremely disappointing."
Leonard said today's draw, which was supposed to be made by United's Northern Ireland defender Paddy McNair, had been postponed because of the club's withdrawal.
"We know Paddy was keenly anticipating his role with us on Tuesday but permission for his participation was cancelled," Leonard said.
"We had invested considerable time and money on the technical aspect of our visual presentation for the draw itself so that needs to be revamped.
"We are also in the process of finalising another team to replace United."
The international youth tournament regularly attracts youth teams from the biggest clubs across the world.
It will take place across several venues in Northern Ireland from July 26-31.
It was founded in 1983 by a group that included former Celtic and Northern Ireland international Bertie Peacock, who was a boyhood idol of Glasgow-born former United boss Alex Ferguson.
Previous United players to have taken part in the tournament include Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Keith Gillespie and Nicky Butt.