Town's ex-United starlet Tunnicliffe looking forward to catching up with 'one of the nice guys' in Red Devils boss Solskjaer

Luton midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe during his Manchester United debut back in September 2012Luton midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe during his Manchester United debut back in September 2012
Luton midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe during his Manchester United debut back in September 2012
Luton midfielder discusses his time at Old Trafford

Luton midfielder Ryan Tunicliffe is looking forward to meeting up with one of 'nice guys in football' again this evening, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 27-year-old, a boyhood United who was born in Heywood, came through the ranks at Old Trafford, turning pro in 2009, winning the FA Youth Cup in 2011.

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He picked up the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year for his performances in the competition, before moving up to feature for the United second string.

There he was managed by Solskjaer, who had taken on the role on after retiring from playing in 2007, as on working under the striker, who achieved club legend status for his Champions League Final winner in 1999, he said: “I was a bit young when he was playing, but he was my reserve manager for a year or so before he left.

"I had a good relationship with him then, so it will be nice to catch up.

"I enjoyed working with him, I had massive respect for him growing up as a United fan, the stuff that he did, the goals that he scored.

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"It was probably a bit daunting when I was 16, 17, listening to him, it was pretty nervous being a young lad as he was such a legend.

"But I’m sure if I see him, I’ll have a chat and say hello, ask how the families are, but it's down to business now, as soon as we get to the stadium.

“If you speak to anyone about him, he’s one of the nice guys in football, so I’m sure he’ll ask how I am and probably make time for me as we haven’t seen each other for maybe 10 years.”

Solskjaer spent three years as United reserve chief, until heading back to Norway to manage Molde twice, in between a disappointing first venture in England, his time in charge of Cardiff City lasting less than 12 months.

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When asked whether he seen signs of a successful managerial career during his time working at Old Trafford, Tunnicliffe continued: “He was just starting out, but you could see everyone respected him because of what he’d done in the game and when you’ve got that respect it goes a long way.

"As he’d been at United for so long, he had the characteristics of Sir Alex Ferguson, he’d picked that up along the way, so you could see he would go on be a manager.

"To be Man United manager so soon, I probably wouldn’t have said that about him, but it is what it is, he’s taken his chance and he’s done a good job.”

Tunnicliffe eventually made his first team debut for United on September 26, 2012, replacing Marnick Vermijl, with 13 minutes to go in a Capital One Cup 2-1 home win over Newcastle United.

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He made one other appearance, that in a 5-4 defeat at Chelsea in the next round, as on the experience of playing for a manager like Sir Alex Ferguson, he said: "He was coming to the end (of his time in charge), which was a shame for the club.

"I played twice under him and I travelled on one of the tours with him, so I knew him quite well.

"I was sad to see him leave as he brought me through, gave me a few chances and then for him to leave, I had to start from scratch really with a new manager coming in.

“He’s one of a kind, the stuff that he did and stuff that he won, but when I talk about respect, everyone respected him, everyone sort of feared him.

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"He was a great man manager, he knew how to deal with all types of characters, it was an honour and a privilege to work under him.”

Tunnicliffe's debut in the match against Newcastle saw both he and his family celebrating for different reasons, as his dad had put a £100 bet on his son turning out for the first team, when he was aged just nine.

The midfielder said: "The biggest moment of pride for me was obviously making my debut.

"I’d worked ten years to get to that point, I was a boyhood supporter and all my hard work paid off.

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"It was a massive moment for me and one I look back on with great honour because not too many kids get to do that.

"There’s probably millions that want to do it and I’m one of the lucky ones that got the chance.

“My dad’s a City fan, my mum's a United fan, so it was bittersweet for him.

“He put the bet on when I was nine to play a competitive first team game and when I came on against Newcastle he cashed it in, so 10 grand in his pocket, as it wasn’t the greatest odds for a nine year old to play for the biggest club in the world."

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With David Moyes taking over from Ferguson, Tunnicliffe saw his chances limited, with loans to Barnsley and Ipswich, before moving to Fulham in January 2014.

His first game for the Cottagers was back at Old Trafford, playing 65 minutes of a 2-2 draw, but on whether he feels there is a point to prove now, he said: "No, I don’t think so, it’s been probably seven, eight years, since I left, so not really a point to prove.

"As always, I’ll go out and give 100 per cent and try to get the win.

"It’s always nice, I was there for 10,11 years, boyhood United fan, so it’s a big one for me, I can’t wait for it.

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"I made my Fulham debut and that was a proud moment because I made my Premier League debut.

"It was a strange one because I think I signed for Fulham on the 30th or 31st of January and then on 2nd February I was making my debut for Fulham against the team that just sold me.

"It was sort of a strange feeling, to be at a place for so long and then going back and wanting to beat them so badly."

Tunnicliffe could find himself going face-to-face with two of his former Red Devils' U18s team-mates this evening, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard.

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Whether the pair, or even Town's midfielder starts, is not known yet, but despite struggling at Old Trafford recently, Tunnicliffe still thinks Lingard is a top player.

He said: "I’ve had, in my career, obviously not to that level, but I’ve had dips in my career where all you need is an arm around you and to feel loved.

"I’m sure the manager and the boys are doing that to him.

"He’s still an England international and has still played around 30 times for his country, so you don’t just lose that overnight.

"Obviously, he just needs a bit of confidence and he’ll be right back on track.“

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Whoever Solksjaer opts to send out at Kenilworth Road though, Tunnicliffe knows Luton will be in for a tough night regardless.

He added: "You would think they would give players minutes who haven’t got minutes as they had a shortened pre-season, so it probably will be a bit different to the team that played Saturday (against Crystal Palace), but still it will be nine, 10, 11 international, world class players.

"We have to look at it like that, whoever turns up will be more than capable and we’ll have to be at 100 per cent.

“They need to get up to speed, so I’m sure that people who need game time will be getting it and there’ll be a lot of good players on the pitch, but I don't think there's anything to fear.

"We’re at home, it’s in the cup and we’re on a good run ourselves.

"Just go out there and play football and the best team will win on the night.”