Manchester United defender Harry Maguire has insisted that young players do not necessarily need to be part of elite academies to make it at the top level.
After coming through the youth system with his boyhood club Sheffield United, Maguire made 166 appearances for the Blades - many of which came in League One - before working his way up the Football League with moves to Hull City, Leicester City and eventually United.
“I’ve been really lucky, to have had a lot of experience in terms of playing games,” he said. “I played 50 games for three or four seasons at Sheffield United, every year.
“That's something I really love doing. I love playing. For me, the best way to learn is by playing games and I’ve been fortunate, in terms of the managers I’ve played for, that they have all picked me to start, especially in my younger days when it’s harder as a young centre-back to get your chance to go and play.”
It's a sentiment which was echoed by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who confessed (via the Daily Mail) that there are always other options for young players who are not part of an elite academy.
"The academies are great, but sometimes you see a different type of player coming through the other route," the boss admitted. "One of the dangers with the academies is everything is there for them. They don't have to do anything. Do we prepare them for this man's game?
"Jamie Vardy is another example of finding your own way and making your own career. I have come through the back door myself and I like players with a different type of mentality. Harry has come in and been different class on and off the pitch — as a leader, but also as a good person."
Sunday's game will be the first time Maguire will return to Bramall Lane as a United player. The defender insisted that he will always support the Blades, but he will not take it easy on them.
“I’ll be back at Bramall Lane and I'm sure I’ll get a better reception than I did from the Leicester fans when they came to Old Trafford!" he laughed.
“Sheffield United have started great in the Premier League but, when we play them, it’s going to be business for me. I’ll be trying to get the three points off them but then hope they win every other game, apart from the ones against us.”