Liverpool And the Real Madrid legend Steve McManaman Looking forward to the Masters Football series returning this weekend, he’s expecting a “competitive” but nonetheless “fun” work night.
On July 8, a star-studded one-night tournament will take place at Braehead Arena, Glasgow.
Legendary players from four of Britain’s top defenders will emerge from the 360 Sports TV Masters Cup, featuring Liverpool, Manchester United, Celtic and Rangers.
The quartet of both sides will mix it up on the signature blue lawn for two eight-minute halves – as the top two teams of the group play the final.
McManaman, a two-time Champions League winner, is one of the stars to sign up and expect plenty of action from over 35 tournaments.
“It’s cool,” McManaman told SPORTbible. “I didn’t play when it was at the beginning because I was probably still playing.
But since then, I’ve known one of the owners, Steve Black, for a while, and have played in a lot of his games over the past 10 years.
“But usually we play in Singapore, or Hong Kong, or Thailand, or Malaysia, you know, in the Far East, where, of course, Liverpool and Manchester United,
“We’ve been there a lot, we’ve played against each other, we’ve played with Chelsea, Arsenal or a combined team. And we’ve always had a great time.
“And the fact that he’s back in action and back in this country – I think there was a lot of interest in him – is really cool.
“I think as long as people are sane, and we take it for everything, it should be a fun night.
“I think five-a-side or six-a-side football is sometimes more intense. Nowadays, when you play 11 in every team on a big pitch, it gets a bit slow and hard to watch because of course it’s not the normal pace of play. Five-a-side things should be much faster. “.
Assessing his team, McManaman said: “The likes of Stuart Downing, I think from his mid to late thirties, he just retired, so he should be a lot fitter than me or Jimmy Carragher.
“I’ve played a lot of exhibition matches for such older Liverpool guys at Real Madrid. And I love the fact that if everyone wants to play or people want to be involved in different eras, I’m more than happy that it happened.
“I love the fact that I play for Liverpool and Alan Kennedy wants to play in 67 – because he’s played such an integral part of Liverpool’s history – he scored in two European Cup finals.
“If he wants to play and he feels like he can run and play, even if it’s for 10 to 15 minutes, you have to play.
“It’s the same with Real Madrid when that happens, I’ve played with Emilio Butragueno and people like that – different eras when I’ve played but if they’re fit and they want to run, they’re great stars.”
It’s been 22 years since McManaman scored a superb goal for Real in the Champions League final and 17 years since he got stuck in his boots.
But he has been playing regularly in Liverpool’s charity matches, and although he is now half a century old in his life, the former England international still feels as if he has plenty in the tank.
He added, “Physically I’m fine. I’m trying to stay fit, COVID happens and all of a sudden you lose two or three years.
“I’m 50 now so when you say the number 50 it suddenly feels like it’s really old when it comes to football, in a sense.
“I still feel like I can run, I still go to the Liverpool academy and join the kids there so I still feel fine.
“I would expect some guys there to be much sharper and faster than me, but as in fitness and being able to run and not get tired, I’m still good at things like that.”
Those who change it into the returning Masters Football event are happily retired but the will to win and be the best is still very much present.
McManaman believes this approach never leaves a player and has defined Jimmy Carragher’s competitive advantage in recent Soccer Aid rounds.
“When you start these games, you always want to win, right? You don’t want to be laughed at because you lost by three, four or five goals.
“I think the former players have that motto where if you are going to go in and play in a game you can also win. This is always with you all the time. You are always going to step in or you are always going to try to score and try to win.
“And you’re more than happy if you win the title at the end – even if it’s spraying a bottle of champagne, you’d rather do it than finish the last four. There’s still that competitive advantage.
“I saw him at a Soccer Aid game recently and he still likes to put his foot down and he doesn’t like to be crossed.
“If you run into someone who’s faster than you and a little bit sharper because they’re younger than you, you don’t want them to make fun of you, so you always want to make sure they know you’re there.”
July 8 is set to be an experience of sorts, with plans already in place for a large-scale tournament with regional qualifiers in the usual Masters Football format in 2023.