Man Utd play 'green' friendly
Manchester United played a friendly with a difference at Forest Green as Gary Neville's environmental crusade combined with the development of the next group of Red Devils.
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Whilst United's first team were in Norway, Sir Alex Ferguson back in Manchester and the Brazilian federation rejecting claims that midfielder Lucas Moura was having a medical with the Old Trafford outfit, former United captain Neville was guest of honour at the New Lawn for the 2-2 draw.
On one level, it was an opportunity for the likes of Tyler Blackett to enhance their reputations, on another, it was a chance for Neville to push his new Sustainability in Sport project at the most environmentally-friendly club in the football pyramid.
"Sports bring everyone together at all age groups," said Neville.
"You saw the power of Euro 2012 and now it is the Olympics.
"That means we can combine children and young people with the fact that sustainability, energy and climate change are huge issues in today's society. Hopefully it is a good marriage."
For the record, United's victory - sealed thanks to an excellent goal from young Brazilian trialist Agnaldo - was achieved in a ground that is powered by a ground-based solar system, surrounded by wildlife habitats, on a near fully-organic pitch where all the water is recycled against players wearing shirts washed by phosphate-free powder.
It is a quite revolutionary combination, the brainchild of Neville's fellow visionary Dale Vince, Forest Green's forward-thinking chairman.
"It is a pilot project," said Neville.
"Dale set up the UK's first renewable energy company 20 years ago.
"Other clubs will follow but we need to promote the message and make people more aware because the issue of climate change is not going away and sport cannot ignore it."
However, there was a more fundamental aspect to the game, which allowed Neville to recount his own playing days.
"I remember playing in these types of games in pre-season as a youth player," he said.
"It is a big part of your education.
"You are playing in front of a few thousand as opposed to later in the season when there might be 500 for the reserves.
"Manchester United bring young players through and hopefully some of these lads can go on to become really great footballers."
England Under-18 international Blackett has the most obvious chance, having made a positive impression during United's recent tour of South Africa and China.
Midfield duo Adnan Januzaj and Mats Daehli are others who are making an impact, although, as usual, though they will be presented with opportunities, the competition for that coveted first-team berth will be huge.
Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell have already arrived, with huge efforts being made to land Robin van Persie and Moura, whom the Brazilian federation insists has not been released for a medical as has been reported.
"The manager will always sign players he believes will develop into exceptional players," said Neville.
"There have been these stories about Lucas and no one knows what is going to happen with Robin van Persie.
"It is always difficult to find the right players though.
"Manchester United already have an excellent squad who finished equal on points with the champions last year."