Tony Popovic is backing Perth Glory's youngsters to seize a once in a lifetime opportunity to test their mettle against Premier League giants Manchester United on Saturday night.
Glory boss Popovic, 46, has had a steady influx of youth players at his disposal during the early stages of pre-season, with many experienced stars like Diego Castro, Andy Keogh and Matthew Spiranovic still on leave.
Many of these WA starlets – including Popovic’s two sons, Gabriel (15) and Kristian (17) – are set to be thrown into action against some of English football's most distinguished names, such as French World Cup-winning midfielder Paul Pogba and English forward Marcus Rashford.
Joshua Rawlings was also earmarked by the Perth coach as another young talent putting his hand up for selection against the 20-time Champions of England after some exceptional performances for the club's NPL WA team in 2019.
“The kids are getting rewarded by how well they’re playing,” Popovic said. “These boys are aspiring players, and if they want to have a career for the Socceroos and play in the Premier League one day, this will show them the level they have to get at.
“It’s a good eye opener, and hopefully they can show enough on Saturday night that we have very good youngsters over here in WA that can hold their own against the very best.
“Manchester United is a special team and a special organisation worldwide. To have them here is just a great honour. We know that they’ll show their quality on Saturday and we want to show ours as well.”
Saturday’s friendly at Optus Stadium marks a new era for United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is aiming to stamp his mark on the Red Devils in his crucial, first pre-season at the helm.
Meanwhile, Popovic’s men are returning to the harrowing scene of their penalty shootout loss in the Hyundai A-League Grand Final 2019.
It is a wonderful opportunity for the former Crystal Palace and Caltex Socceroos stalwart to reignite the Glory touchpaper, ahead of a new Hyundai A-League campaign in which the reigning Premiers will be among the favourites for silverware, and one that sees the club venture in AFC Champions League football for the first time.
“You don’t go out there and say 'let’s just run around here and make it pleasant for Manchester United',” Popovic said.
“We want to make Perth Glory proud."
“You don’t want to get stage fright on the day. I want them to go out there and show that we are a very good side.”
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Manchester United v Perth Glory
Date: Saturday, 13 July 2019
Venue: Optus Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 7pm AWST, 9pm AEST