Student Athlete of the Week Old Trafford experience showed teenager from the British School Al Khubairat what he needs to do to make the Premier League grade.
Time for BSAK footballer Ben Rose to blossom
ABU DHABI // Ben Rose knows what it is like to have the ball at your feet on the Old Trafford pitch with thousands of people watching. And the British School Al Khubairat pupil has seen for himself what it takes to make it at a club such as Manchester United.
The first experience frightened him. The second made him realise just how far he has to go if his dream of becoming a professional footballer is to be realised.
Rose, 16, won a trip to Manchester United in a skills competition last month during the club's soccer school in Abu Dhabi. The competition awarded points for dribbling and keeping the ball off the ground.
Thirty winners from United's soccer schools around the world were treated to a training session on the pitch before the club's game with Norwich City last month.
"That was amazing," Rose said. "The pitch was so lush, and to look up and see three tiers, and there were a few people inside the stadium; [it] was pretty daunting.
"They were all looking down watching everything we were doing. One mistake and it's seen. That gave me a glimpse into the pressure the players are under. I was terrified of doing something silly in front of a crowd.
"You wonder why players miss easy chances sometimes, but now I know how tense it is out there, and we were hardly playing in the Champions League."
If that was daunting, then so was the realisation of what a player has to go through to make the grade at a Premier League club.
Ben and his father, Richard, visited the club's Carrington training ground on the Friday before their Old Trafford debut and got to meet the first-teamers Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling.
But it was the sight of his own age group in action that has stayed with him.
"We saw the youth teams train and the guys in my age group were amazing," Rose said. "They were so fit and could run all day. It made me realise the commitment you need to make regarding fitness and what you eat. I have already cut out some things from my diet.
"I have been on the treadmill a lot more because, ability-wise, I think I'm there, but I'm miles behind the United boys in terms of fitness. Watching them really opened my eyes."
Andy Dixon, the head coach at the Abu Dhabi Soccer School, sees potential in his star pupil.
"Technically, Ben is a good player. He deserved his place in Manchester, but he does have a few bits to improve upon and, being the type of lad he is, I'm sure he will take on what he saw over there," he said.
"He has come on an awful lot as a footballer over the past year or so. He reads the game very well and for that reason he likes the play to be in front of him."
Dixon said his only uncertainty about Rose is where to play him.
"His only problem, if you can call it that, is that we aren't quite sure what position is his best," the coach said. "We've played him all over the park and he's done well wherever we've put him."
Rose said he loved every minute of his time at the ground of the English champions, but he did have one confession.
"I am actually a big Liverpool fan," he said.