As the youngster is genuinely two-footed, he has doubled his chances of playing on United’s flanks. Watch out, Messrs Beckham and Giggs. On the eve of joining the England Under-21 party, Chadwick spoke to onefootball.com’s John Chapman.
Luke Chadwick is 19 and his CV to date includes Manchester United, Royal Antwerp and the England Under-21s. Currently on loan with the Belgian club, Chadwick is fast, two-footed and hungry for more first-team experience. Next season could be an exciting one for the flying winger, wherever he is playing.
Born in Cambridge, Chadwick had the choice of playing for Arsenal or Manchester United. He opted for the north as “the training was more enjoyable, the whole atmosphere friendlier.” After playing junior football, he signed professional forms in the 1998-99 season. It was, he now remembers, “one of the best moments of my life”.
So far he’s played just once for United’s first team, in the Worthington Cup match against Aston Villa. In a team sprinkled with young players, the 3-0 defeat still rankles: “We should have done better than that,” he admits.
Just after Christmas 1999, Chadwick was given the chance of playing at Antwerp, joining team-mates Kirk Hilton and George Clegg across the channel.
“I thought it would be a great experience,” he says and, looking back, he feels that it’s toughened him both mentally and physically. “First-team football is different. You can’t afford to make mistakes.” Chadwick has appeared 14 times for Antwerp, scoring five goals including a hat-trick against Kortrijk in March. Goals, however, are not what makes Chadwick tick. He loves to take on defenders and this has made him a big favourite. Arriving at Old Trafford as a right-footed striker, he’s now equally at home on the left wing where he’s started most of his games for Antwerp.
His best night was when Ingelmunster were beaten to give Royal Antwerp the championship, and promotion, by a record-breaking 19 points. Chadwick was carried shoulder-high from the pitch by enthusiastic fans – something he’ll never forget. “The whole night was brilliant,” he reflects. “A magic moment.”
His next objective is this summer’s Under-21 tournament in Slovakia. Chadwick takes up the story: “I’d already played for the England Under-18s and Howard Wilkinson picked me against Luxembourg for the Under-21s. Everyone else was a Premiership player so I was very surprised. I’ve learnt a lot just being on the pitch with those guys.”
Chadwick played right wing-back against Luxembourg and stayed there against Argentina and Denmark. “It’s a very difficult position,” he concludes. “Hard work.”
Of his young international colleagues he’s been most impressed by Liverpool midfielder Steve Gerard, whom he rates as “a terrific player.” But Argentina’s midfielder Dalassendro really impressed him when the two sides met in the spring. Apparently, he was so good against England that “no-one could tackle him all night”.
Last Friday Chadwick played for Antwerp against United Reserves and he was the most impressive Manchester player on the pitch, setting up the only goal of the game as Antwerp won 1-0. Asked if he might return to Antwerp next season, Chadwick remains non-committal. “It’s not my decision,” he says. “But if it would mean more first-team football (in the Belgian first division) then I wouldn’t be against it.”
As a potential understudy to both Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, Chadwick’s career is well on course. If next year he finds himself facing Anderlecht and Standard Liege, as well as continuing his run in the England set-up, there will doubtless be a few more entries on the Cambridge boy’s already impressive CV.