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Royal Antwerp chief: Clubs jealous of successful Man Utd relationship

Manchester United's relationship with Belgium's Royal Antwerp is coming up to ten years this season.

Antwerp general secretary Paul Bistiaux has been a major influence on the alliance and says it gets stronger every year.

He told the Manchester Evening News: "You look at United's first team and it is not impossible to breakthrough but it is very, very hard. But the fact they may come here and then never actually make it at Old Trafford doesn't mean the link is not a success.

"Most of the United players who have come here have made very good careers for themselves back in England. That's the important point and the fact is their experience in Belgium has helped them do that.

"I look at the United squad out in South Africa at the moment and there about six players out there who we've had at Royal Antwerp. That makes us proud.

"It was also a memorable occasion to see John O'Shea at the Euro final in Moscow because he was one of the earlier players who came over.

"While John might not have been a major playing triumph those who you could mark down as big on-field successes were Luke Chadwick and Lee Martin. Most recently we had Fraizer Campbell for a season and the fans absolutely loved him. The whole ground used to chant his name and he responded to it. He was our top scorer in the year he was here.

"He is so talented, a great goalscorer with tremendous pace. I was pleased to see he did so well at Hull City last season on loan and helped them to promotion to the Premier League.

"I think he is going to be a Premiership player and I think he could make it in United's first team.

"The alliance has enabled us to field so many talented young players that would never have come to Royal Antwerp otherwise. Our fans would never have seen a player like Fraizer without the agreement.

"We have made so many friends at United. We feel like part of the family. I cannot thank people at Old Trafford like Sir Alex Ferguson, Les Kershaw (former Academy director), Brian McClair and Jimmy Ryan enough. They have been marvellous to work with.

"It was a magnificent gesture when Sir Alex brought the a full strength team over in 2005 for our 125th anniversary. We are the oldest club in Belgium and that was an anniversary present I will remember for the rest of my life."

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Tribal Football Staff

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