Ross County 2-2 Manchester Utd XI: Cooper goal

ALEX Cooper knows just what it feels like to be paraded around the country as a bright young thing. While with Liverpool, under-20 friendlies against full league clubs or foreign teams could easily attract expectant crowds of 10,000 or more.

Ross Countys Alex Cooper celebrates after giving the Staggies a 21 lead over a Manchester United XI in Dingwall. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS

The boot was on the other foot on Saturday as Cooper starred for Ross County – and scored – against Manchester United’s highly-rated kids.

Anfield ambitions have subsided for now, but the 21-year-old son of Aberdeen legend Neale hopes this brush with his past can help ignite his future.

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Cooper rejoined boyhood club County two years ago on release from Liverpool and knows this season is a massive one in his development.

With Iain Vigurs having left for Motherwell, the chance is there to make a first-team breakthrough and the midfielder said: “That was a good result against a good Manchester United team. “It was great to play against a team of that calibre now we are getting closer to the start of the season. The players are fit and ready to push on and take it to another level for the first league game against Celtic.

“Manchester United had quite a few players who have played first-team football in the 
Carling Cup and out on loan in the Championship. Bebe and Federico Macheda have played in the English Premier League, so it was a real stern test to sharpen us up. The good thing is we stood up well to them and played some decent football ourselves, which was a positive. I played a few games like that in Ireland and abroad while at Liverpool and you would always get a good turn-out.

“Fans come along hoping to see players of the future or the odd big name. I played alongside Scott Wootton, one of their centre backs today, at Liverpool the first year I was there, before he left for Manchester United. And I had already played against a few of the others in reserve games.

“I am sure the Manchester United lads would have enjoyed it, too, as you tend to get poor crowds in the run-of-the-mill 
reserve games.”

Cooper admits he is determined to press his case to manager Derek Adams in pre-season, particularly this week with friendlies in the Netherlands. County flew to Amsterdam yesterday and face FC Den Bosch tomorrow and top-flight Dutch side PEC Zwolle on Friday.

Cooper added: “It is a big season for me and I am confident I can do well and make an impact. Hopefully, I can stay injury free and have a long time where I can focus solely on football rather than trying to get fit and having little niggling injuries.

“If the team is doing well most managers don’t want to change it. You need to get in the team and do well, but I wouldn’t be here if the manager didn’t think I was capable. I know myself the things I want to do this season, but I’ll keep my targets to myself.

“We go straight out to Holland now, where we will train and play two games. It will be good for team morale to spend a bit of time abroad as a group, with good pitches and training facilities out there at our Delden base. We will come back fresh and ready to go against Celtic.”

County made a blistering start when Dutch signing Kevin Luckassen caught United cold by powering through to hammer a low shot past United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

United equalised after 35 minutes, though, when Italian Davide Petrucci swerved a lovely free kick over the wall and 
beyond Mark Brown. It was always entertaining and County restored their lead after 57 minutes when Mihael Kovacevic teed up Cooper for a confident finish. United replied on 64 minutes. Macheda carved the opening before Ryan Tunnicliffe whipped the ball from his team-mate’s toes and struck past substitute ’keeper Michael Fraser.

Manager Derek Adams said: “I thought that was our best pre-season performance so far. United had a lot of good, talented players out there but I thought we coped very well.

“Now we have two very difficult games in Holland where the opposition will keep the ball and make us chase it. We will have a clear idea of where we stand after those two matches.”