Manchester United defender for Scotland u-21 start

MANCHESTER United defender Donald Love was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson, coached by Brian McClair and recommended to the SFA by Darren Fletcher. It’s an impressive pedigree and one that should stand the player in good stead when he makes his debut for Danny Lennon’s Scotland Under-21 side in Tatabanya this afternoon against Hungary.

Rochdale-born Love – who qualifies to play for Scotland through his Stranraer-born father David – could hardly have received a more impressive upbringing at Old Trafford.

The defender, who can play as a right back or central back, has been with United since he was seven years old.

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Fletcher, the former United vice-captain who is now at West Bromwich Albion, personally recommended him to the SFA after being impressed with his performances for the reserves when he was recovering from his illness.

As well as being signed by Ferguson, Love was coached by McClair, who was in charge of the Manchester United youth academy before agreeing to return to Scotland where he will start his new role as the SFA’s technical director in June.

Love, 20, said: “I have spoken to Sir Alex a couple of times. He was the one who offered me my first professional contract. I had to go into his office when he told me I was getting offered it. I spoke to him for something like five minutes. He told me how well I’d done that year and stuff. It’s a bit overwhelming, he’s a big name.

“I’ve been in the Manchester United system since I was seven. I started one night a week and the weekend. Then it changes the older you get. When I turned 18 I went full-time.

“Danny Lennon told me Darren Fletcher had spoken to him when he rang me. I knew Darren, he trained with us in the reserves last year when he was coming back from his illness.

“He played a couple of games and I spoke to him. He’s a nice man and really helps you when he speaks to you. Playing and training with him he’ll give you little tips. It meant a lot to know he’d called the Under-21s manager – he’s a legend in Scottish football.

“He’s a true professional isn’t he? You see how hard he works, he does everything properly. Even when he was trying to get back from his illness he was giving 100 per cent to everything. Seeing him do what he’s done is what I want to do hopefully.

“I don’t think Brian McClair had too much influence on me coming but I know him through United and he’s a good man. He’s great to work with. You look at how many players who have come through the Academy and he’s been Academy Director.

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“I think he’ll be great for the role he’s just been appointed to. He gives players confidence and helps everyone out. He’s good to have around.”

Love has impressed for United’s reserves and was even playing with Radamel Falcao earlier this month against Tottenham Hotspur when the Colombian striker was dropped. He is hoping he could be the next United youngster to be given a chance by manager Louis van Gaal.

Love said: “I felt sorry for Falcao. There was a lot of pressure on him. It’s hard for him to come down and play a game like that. He doesn’t speak too much English so I didn’t really talk to him. The manager treats him the same so it’s just a normal game. They don’t mind coming down to play with us. They’ve all got their own agendas. Falcao played for match fitness. When they come back from injury they all know they need game time so they give 100 per cent.

“You get used to playing and training with players like that. It’s growing up I suppose and getting used to it.

“The manager seems to give youngsters a chance. Paddy McNair couldn’t get a game in our team last year and now he’s played first team football.”

Lennon, meanwhile, has praised Scotland manager Gordon Strachan for his help ahead of his first game as caretaker coach of the under-21 side.

He said: “Gordon has been fantastic in that he’s let me get on with it. He’s made me aware that he’s on the end of a phone call if I need any advice. And I’ve used him for that. His man-management and trust has been fantastic.

“We’ve identified Hungary’s weaknesses but we’ll try and play to our strengths. The game-plan is coming together.

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“I’m enjoying every minute of the job so far. I’ve tried to maintain high standards and I want a result and performance against Hungary.”