"You get such an uplift seeing the enthusiasm of the people around us. Our players will understand how popular Manchester United are away from home. It will be an uplifting experience and it's one of the reasons we've come here."

These comments by Paul McGuinness, the head coach of United's U-18 team, perfectly depict the friendly, upbeat mood at the Hibs Ground yesterday as the United starlets kicked off a four-day training camp in Malta.

Prior to their opening session, McGuinness and U-18 players Robert Brady and Scott Wootton took part in a question-and-answer session with local journalists.

"Manchester United have an excellent relationship with the supporters' club here," McGuinness, son of former United player and coach Wilf McGuinness, said.

"There was a contact as David Bushell spoke to Joe Glanville and the Manchester United Supporters' Club. When we found out that it was possible to come to Malta, we went for it because this training camp falls at just the right time for us.

"There are no games this weekend and for us it's just perfect to come away from Carrington and spend a few days here. We're going to play Hibs U-18 (on Thursday). We will use this training camp as a springboard for our preparations for the next stage of the season."

Based at the club's state-of-the-art complex in Carrington, the United Academy is bracketed among the best on the continent.

The development of homegrown talent has always featured high on United's agenda.

"There is a long tradition going back to Matt Busby's time," McGuinness said of United's emphasis on youth development.

"We still have links with that time and we still do a lot of things they did then. At this club, there has always been an emphasis on attacking football."

Although the top priority for academies is to develop players, McGuinness insisted they also work on other aspects.

"The Academy has two or three main aims," McGuinness said.

"One of them is to get as many young players into the first team as possible. We also want our youngsters to become fine professionals.

"Not all academy players make it to the first team but many have gone on to play for other clubs. United are a club that has made money from transfers of young players.

"The other aim is to give the youngsters a good experience. We want them to be good persons whatever walk of life they go into after their academy years."

United's squad for the training camp features three Italian players, Davide Petrucci, Alberto Massacci and Michele Fornasier, and highly-rated French midfielder Paul Pogba.

Recruitment rules

McGuinness remarked that the English FA rules on the recruitment of players at youth level are such that it's easier for clubs to register players from other countries.

"It's easier for us to get someone from France or Italy than it is to take one from Newcastle," McGuinness said.

The enormous pressure for on-pitch success means that most of the clubs are prepared to spend big to sign proven quality rather than wait for their homegrown ones to reach their full potential.

Manchester United, the current English champions, have splashed millions on transfers over the years but that is not to say that they don't give their youngsters a chance to show their worth.

As Joseph Tedesco, the president of the MUSC, pointed out in his introductory speech, stalwarts like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville - who took part in the club's 50th anniversary celebrations in February - came through the youth ranks of the club.

A number of academy graduates are also pushing hard for a regular place in the current team, the likes of defender Johnny Evans, Darron Gibson, Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck.

Brady, who scored in the 2-2 draw at Wolves on Saturday, and Wootton derive inspiration from their team-mates' progress.

"The way I see it is that if they can do it, then we can do it," Brady said.

"It's important that you take the opportunity when it comes and keep working hard to achieve your goals," Wootton said.

Invited to name their role models, Brady mentioned Giggs and Wootton plumped for Rio Ferdinand.

"I believe I can learn a lot from a player like Giggs," Brady said.

"I can also look up to him because he's such a fantastic professional. I also like Wayne Rooney."

"For me it has to be Rio Ferdinand," Wootton said.

"I know that he has had some criticism lately but he's a top defender. I've always admired how calm and confident he is."

On Sunday, United missed the chance to regain top spot in the Premier League after crashing to a 2-0 defeat to rivals Liverpool.

McGuinness was unimpressed with United's performance at Anfield.

"I only saw the second half. I don't think we deserved to win because we didn't play well," he said.

"It was one of those tight derby games. We hit the bar late on and we might have got a draw but sometimes you get this kind of games. It made it harder for us because it was against Liverpool.

"They were coming from a poor run of results and we had an opportunity to push them further down. We're disappointed but there's a long way to go."

Yesterday's news conference was also addressed by Salvu Cachia, the manager of the Hibs Ground, who expressed his and the club's satisfaction at hosting the United Academy for a training camp.

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