Man Utd title-winners among ex-Premier League stars paying £5 to play in secret matches – The Mirror

The footballers who play in the friendly games pay £5 each to book out the synthetic pitch in Manchester – with one ex-star insisting it’s “better than going to the gym”

Stephen Ireland plays a big role in organising the friendlies(PA)

A group of footballers are arranging games between themselves – with several former Premier League stars taking part.

Each week, 20 non-contracted or retired players meet up in Manchester to play a friendly on a synthetic pitch. Games are arranged via a WhatsApp group which contains 66 footballers, including former Premier League and Champions League favourites.

The idea has been praised by those involved, as many footballers struggle to come to terms with retirement. It is also helping current players remain fit while they aren’t playing first-team matches, such as former Manchester United wonderkid Ravel Morrison.

20 players involved in a recent game had more than 1,000 appearances in England’s top flight between them, scoring more than 100 goals. Many of those stars were capped by their country at senior and won major trophies – including Premier League titles.

As reported by The New York Times, each game lasts around an hour, with each footballer chipping in £5 to rent the pitch. Former players also get involved in the refereeing, with two-time Premier League winner Joleon Lescott officiating a recent game.

Antonio Valencia and John O’Shea, who both won Premier League titles with Man Utd, have featured in recent matches. As have Danny Simpson and Danny Drinkwater, two former Red Devils who won the Premier League title with Leicester in 2016.

Morrison is still contracted to MLS side DC United, who are managed by Wayne Rooney, but was left out of their squad for the 2023 campaign. Dale Stephens, who is retired but played in the Premier League just two years ago, is another star involved in the idea.

John O’Shea (right) has previously featured in the friendlies(Manchester United via Getty Images)

What do you make of these games? Let us know in the comments below!

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