Dwight McNeil: Burnley winger says Manchester United exit made him more focused | Football News

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Dwight McNeil will return to Old Trafford on Sunday, but believes being released by Manchester United as a schoolboy was a blessing in disguise.

The 21-year-old winger made his 100th appearance at Burnley last weekend, establishing himself as a key member of Sean Dyche’s squad.

McNeil grew up training with Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams and Angel Gomes at United, but seven years after being fired he hasn’t looked back.

“It pushed me to become a professional footballer,” he said of United’s decision. “I hope that on second thought, I have proven that some people are wrong.

“When I think back to how difficult it was to become the player I am today, I sometimes surprise myself, but I have an inner belief. People around me believe in me which also helps. “


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McNeil remembers being devastated when United showed him the door, but he sought the experience of his father Matty, the former Macclesfield and Stockport forward, in his next stages.

“As a young kid it’s tough to face,” McNeil said. “Especially when it’s your childhood club and the one you grew up supporting. Dad has helped me tremendously.

“He and my mom watched every workout when I got here. But since I got here I’ve loved every minute of it and it’s soon the club I really wanted to be in. “

Dwight McNeil played in a Premier League game for Burnley last season
Image:
McNeil played in a Premier League game for Burnley last season

McNeil made his first-team debut for Burnley in May 2018 and by the middle of the following season he was firmly established in Dyche’s first-choice squad.

Dyche has been a staunch supporter of McNeil’s talent, with the manager’s only complaint that he has to tell him to smile more.

“He tells me every day that I have to enjoy my football because I’m hard on myself,” McNeil said.

“He calls me and Johann (Berg Gudmundsson) ‘the smiles’ because we’re the ones who don’t talk as much as some of the other guys.

“We like it, but sometimes we don’t express it. That’s why he tells us to smile more. The gaffer is good like that and he knows how to get the best out of everyone. “

But even if he doesn’t always show it, McNeil has found his happy place at Turf Moor. There has long been speculation linking him to bigger clubs – including an alleged return to Old Trafford – with Dyche himself saying McNeil will one day grow taller than the Clarets.

Even so, McNeil didn’t hesitate to sign a new contract in October, pledging his future for Burnley until 2024.

“I had a conversation with my father and my family,” he said.

“We came to the conclusion that the best decision, the right decision, was to sign another contract and have that confidence to be part of a team and to have this establishment on the team.

When asked if his head had ever been turned by others, McNeil shook his head. “The gaffer calls it ‘outside noise’ and we didn’t hear anything,” he said.

“It was a simple answer for me and the family to sign a new contract with the club…” I love the club since I’ve been here, and I know the manager and the guys so well. I’m comfortable, played football a lot and enjoyed my football the most at Burnley. ”

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