Dwight McNeil reveals he knew Mason Greenwood would make it when they played together in Man United’s academy… the Burnley winger was let go at 14 but the rejection spurred him on to reach the top
- Dwight McNeil was released from Manchester United at just 14 years old
- He left the likes of Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams to find a new path
- Burnley is the 21-year-old winger’s home now and has been for some time
- He played his 100th game for Sean Dyche and will head to United on Sunday
It is not easy to be released by Manchester United at any age.
For Dwight McNeil the news was delivered when he was just 14, forcing him to leave behind contemporaries like Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams and find a new path in to the professional game.
Burnley is the young winger’s home now and has been for some time.
Dwight McNeil (above) was released from Manchester United at just 14 years old
Still only 21, he has just played his 100th game for Sean Dyche and heads with his team to Old Trafford on Sunday with his reputation on the rise.
‘I look back now at being released by United and I wouldn’t have thought back then that I would eventually have all this experience under my belt by this age,’ McNeil said this week.
‘It’s a credit to the staff who believe in me here and keep playing me. It means a lot to me and my family. To be only 21 and be making my 100th appearance for the club that was always a special one is important.
‘Mason was always a very good player. He was younger than me but he played up with us in our age group.
He left the likes of Mason Greenwood (above) and Brandon Williams to find a new path
Sean Dyche’s Burnley is the 21-year-old winger’s home now and has been for some time
‘He was always good with both feet and you could tell with Mason at a young age that he would make it.
‘I know him personally and he’s a good man. It’s great that we’ve both achieved our dream to play in the Premier League and obviously Mason is doing so well at United and I’m happy for him.
‘He’s had some criticism but I know what kind of guy he is. He’s a good guy and he’s come back scoring goals again.
‘Sometimes I see him face to face on the odd occasion. But it’s mainly on social media I speak to him.’
McNeil’s father Matt played for Macclesfield and Stockport and remains the greatest influence on his career.
McNeil has played 100 game for Dyche’s side and will travel to Old Trafford on Sunday
He will be looking to prove his worth against his old club in their Premier League clash
Until last year he was still living at home, father and son competing for space for framed shirts on the stairs.
Now living on his own for the first time, in Manchester, McNeil continues to develop on and off the field.
A new contract signed at Turf Moor has quietened talk about his future for now but there is not a big club in the country that has not sent somebody to watch him over the last 18 months.
Burnley’s season has been up and down. Back to back defeats against Southampton and Newcastle mean they remain in 16th position in the Premier League.
McNeil’s form has remained good. All that his manager has asked of him is that he smiles a little more.
‘He tells me every day I need to enjoy my football because I am hard on myself,’ said McNeil.
‘He calls me and Johan (Berg Gudmundsson) the smilers because we’re the ones who don’t talk as much as some of the other lads.
‘But we do enjoy it, but we just sometimes don’t express it.
McNeil will feel confident going into the game, having just signed a new contract with Burnley
After signing a new deal, all that Dyche has asked of McNeil is that he smiles a little more
‘The gaffer is good like that and he knows how to get the best out of everyone.’
Having already won at Liverpool and Everton – where McNeil scored a marvellous goal – this year, Burnley have no particular need to fear a trip to United this weekend.
For McNeil, it will just be another step on the journey that one day he feared he would never make.
‘Leaving United just gave me that desire and determination to become a professional footballer in the Premier League, Championship, League One or League Two,’ he said.
‘It made me focused on becoming a professional footballer. Hopefully looking back on it, I’ve proved some people wrong.’
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