FORMER Stalybridge Celtic Juniors’ player Rhys Bennett, 18, has signed his first professional contract with Manchester United.
The Denton-based defender, who has regularly played with the Reds’ Under-18s since earning his scholarship in 2019, began his playing days with Celtic Juniors.
Bennett began at the club’s soccer school before the age of five and then represented Celtic Juniors from U7 to U9, playing a year up, before joining the Old Trafford club to feature for their U10s.
The teenage centre-back, who can also play right back, has made 25 appearances for the U18s as well as four starts in the UEFA Youth Champions League this season as United won their group to qualify for the knockout stage.
Bennett, a former pupil at Russell Scott Primary and Audenshaw High, has already made two appearances for the U23s this season and can expect more in the coming months following the loan departure of Teden Mengi.
Commenting on social media, Bennett said: “Happy to announce I’ve signed my first professional contract at the biggest club in the world.
“Thanks to my friends and family for their support, hard work starts now.”
Bennett, who began his playing days as a midfielder, and young goalkeeper Dermot Mee both gained priceless Football League experience in November when they spent a week at AFC Wimbledon.
The duo spent time with the League One club as part of United’s innovative ‘pro experience programme’ which is designed to give academy players a real taste of daily life as a professional footballer.
Bennett remains close to the Celtic Juniors, where his football journey began, helping coach youngsters at the soccer school during the summer when he had a free Saturday morning and providing kit and boots when they hold charity auctions.
Celtic Juniors’ chairman Mike Taylor said: “Rhys is a brilliant lad and is showing that local kids can follow their dreams.
“It’s great to see him come back to Celtic Juniors from time to time helping coach at the soccer school. We’re all very proud that he has signed his first professional contract at Manchester United.”
• Stalybridge Celtic Juniors’ soccer school reopens after the winter break on Saturday, February 5.
It is open to all abilities and has groups from the ages of four to 12. Practice is 10.30am-noon at their home on Mossley Road, Ashton, and costs £3.50 per week.