We made the trip over the pond and took our 11-year-old to Manchester United Soccer School. This is a 6 day camp. The location of the boys camp was Denstone College – a Boarding School south of Stoke.
The Location – Denstone College
Denstone College is usually a boarding school for boys focusing on athletics. As a result, they have a lot of playing fields available for training. The residential and main hall looks like something from a Harry Potter movie. In fact, they told us it was on a list of finalist for filming locations. I have to admit, the drive in was concerning … Denstone is a small village in the middle of nowhere. It is not close to Manchester so you start to wonder what you have signed up for. Then, when you turn into the drive, wow…
The dorm rooms were set for 6-8 boys. They honor room requests (as best they can). Since there are so many boys to a room, it is reasonably likely your player will be with his mate. Each boy has a bed, desk, and about 6 drawers. The bathroom facilities are nice – private showers and toilets.
We showed up near the end of the check in so there was a slow-moving line. As a result, we missed the junior intro but they said just come back for senior intro. There is staff everywhere and you go from registration room with a personal escort (a coach) to your dorm room. On the way, you stop to put your valuables with another staff member. Seamless and easy and professional.
What You Get
Room and Board and a Manchester United Training Kit with a matching Rain jacket (great idea). The kit is a long sleeve nike red top with logo and a pair of white shorts and one pair of black socks. There is no need for extra money although people left players lots. We left our son $20 and he didn’t spend it.
For the two-week course, instead of going to Old Trafford, you got to a theme park (Alton Towers) — yes the one where there was recently a horrible accident on a coaster. But, as my host says, this is a very cool park.
The price for the 6 day camp was about $1500 US. By comparison, the Dynamo Residential Elite 3.5 day camp is $850 US. If you go for the 2 week camp, they usually run some discounts for the second week. But, on a day-for-day basis, they are about the same price. Neither is cheap and this is where you have to decide what you want out of the camp. If you are going to get evaluated, don’t bother. I doubt any of the MUSS coaches work for United. If you want to know what it feels like to be a professional footballer, this is the camp. The living arrangements, scenery, and closing day at Old Trafford make this worth it to me.
The Quality of Players
Mixed. It is open enrollment so all levels. There are high level players but the camp is not dedicated to them. One thing that is neat about this camp is that there were players from 36 different countries represented of 188 players. My son’s best mate was from Kenya. That is something you will not get from other places.
One thing you have to remember as an American attending, your kid will be immersed in European culture. And, in some countries, their young men use language that you normally wouldn’t hear in the US at 11. That was the one negative (among very little feedback) we got from the player.
The Quality of Staff
As you are unable to watch training sessions, hard to say. My son is coach-loyal (loves coaches) and he is just 11 so hard to get a read from him. The only thing I did learn for sure was that in the games, he let them sort themselves out and didn’t mix in or offer help. I wish coaches intervened more in these situations. Our kids come from a family of 5 where the motto is if you ask for it, you get the opposite. In athletics, they never ask to play a position or demand it. From my experience coaching kids, especially in camps, some kids need some help to be team players. The kids that are penalized are the ones with better manners.
The coach played in the Swansea organization through his youth. Low 20s. Very nice guy. He did not complete the evaluation but let my son complete it. He did tease my son for calling him Sir. (It’s a Southern thing).
Off the hook. These guys know how to run a professional camp. From the first moment you arrive, there is no doubt what is going on and what you need to do. All dressed in official clothes (Man Utd). And staff are everywhere. The opening presentation was impressive with a breakdown for the week as well as a summary of Manchester Ideals. Very good.
The camp does a good job with a Facebook page for the camp and posting pictures. We were in the first week so there was not as much as the later weeks. My son is not one to bother with communication so we heard little for him but he was not homesick and had a great time.
For the players, this was a great day. For the adults, not so much. The players arrived at Old Trafford, ate lunch, went to shop, locker room tour, walked through tunnel, and ended in a Director’s Box. Van Gaal was doing a presser with Memphis Depay on the field when we were there. The players were just feet away from the presser. They then marched them out (in stadium seats – not allowed to get on field). I think for them, it was amazing. For parents, you were mainly there to collect your player. Short presentation. Each kid got a medal.
I didn’t know what to expect with this camp. Previously, had sent kids to University of Texas, LSU, local college, etc. I think where this camp grades strongest is that the kids leave the camp loving soccer more. I am not sure how much more you want from a camp than that. The location and surroundings are beautiful. The staff is uber-professional and littered with former professional players. My son left with a greater passion for the game. That is the best ROI I could ask for. Do I wish they would encourage better language … yes. But, as my English friend told me, it is more a cultural thing.
In terms of player evaluations, I just do not think that camps are the way to go. There is a camp in England called the International Football Development Academy (iFDA) that may offer more concrete information and feedback and is allegedly attended by scouts. I am looking into it and will post information when I get it.
After picking him up, again, he is not that talkative (I had one coach assume from that he doesn’t like soccer.) He is a shy kid but I asked him if he learned a lot about soccer and he said he learned the same stuff we already do but from a different perspective and he liked it. I asked if he would want to go back, he wasn’t sure. This was his first residential experience and he went alone. I think he was most put off by the language of the other campers. He wants to be a professional footballer.
After attending the Dynamo Camp, I asked which he preferred. He preferred the Manchester Camp. My older son, who did not go to the Manchester Camp but did attend the Dynamo Camp said that if he went next summer, he would prefer the England experience, but had a good time at the Dynamo camp. I can review the Dynamo camp separately.