London: Manchester United have triggered a furious backlash in Northern Ireland after they withdrew from a prestigious youth tournament. United have been regulars at the Milk Cup event over the past 25 years, but the club have confirmed they will not take part this year.
"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 United statement read.
Organisers of the tournament, which takes place across Northern Ireland in July, 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. "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 also said Tuesday'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.
The international youth tournament regularly attracts youth teams from the biggest clubs across the world. Previous United players to have taken part in the tournament include Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes.