Manchester United have completed the signing of former Waterford full back Lee O'Connor as Nicky Butt begins strengthening the youth set up at the club. The 15-year-old defender, who is the captain of the Republic of Ireland U16 side, will join the Red Devils' academy from Villa football club.
The defender's club confirmed his move on their official site and he is expected to begin training with the Old Trafford club in July. The full-back was named Ireland's U15 player of the year and he was presented the award by former United target and current Everton right-back Seamus Coleman.
"Manchester United have signed highly-rated Ireland underage international Lee O'Connor. The 15-year-old will join the Premier League side's academy from Villa Football Club in Waterford," a statement on Villa football club's official site read.
O'Connor will become the second Republic of Ireland player in the United academy set up with defender Jimmy Dunne already on the books since July 2014. The duo will be following in the footsteps of John O'Shea, who made 382 appearances for the Red Devils winning multiple Premier League titles, one Champions League and one FA Cup medal.
Butt, who was named the 20-time English champions' academy chief earlier in the year had confirmed plans to strengthen the academy set up by attracting the best youngsters from across Europe. Louis van Gaal has shown this season that talented young players will be given a chance to break into the first-team, with a number of players making their mark during the course of the campaign. Marcus Rashford has been the latest to be given an opportunity, and the young striker has grabbed his chance and is now considered an integral part of the senior squad.
"We're short on a few numbers in the different age groups and it's something we need to address. Something we are addressing and something we will hopefully get over the line in the next few weeks, in time for next season," Butt said, as quoted by the Manchester Evening News.
"It's the same as any other club. We all want to attract the best young players in Europe, at whatever age, and we're exactly the same. We want to attract the best players we can from all over Europe and bring them into what we feel is already a great set-up," the academy chief added.
Lee O'Connor becomes United's second defender signing this year, after United States U19 international Matthew Olasunde joined the Red Devils' academy from Duke University earlier in the year.