But Callum Flanagan’s life was turned upside down when the 19-year-old took his team-mate Phil Marsh back to their digs following a light training session at Carrington, report the Manchester Evening News .
As they pulled up to the lights on a wet Isherwood Road, they met team-mate Mads Timm in his silver Mitsubishi Evolution, which was a typical high-powered car owned by the Red Devils youngsters.
Taunts were exchanged and before they knew it, Flanagan and Timm were racing at 65mph in a 40mph zone as they approached a tight bend in convoy.
Having seen the Dane scrape the bend, Flanagan attempted to keep up in his black Honda Civic but quickly lost control.
His car flipped, crashing into an oncoming Ford Fiesta, in ‘one of the most harrowing days’ of his life.
“It was like slow motion, time seemed to slow down,” he told M.E.N Sport. “Everything blacked out. When I came around, the first thing I thought was if Phil was OK? I shouted to him, ‘Are you OK?’ He said no and was clearly in pain and trapped.
“I managed to climb out of the wreckage and when I did the situation just got worse. She [Fiesta driver] was also trapped in her car. It was like a war zone. I remember thinking, ‘What have I done?’
“The road was closed and both Phil and the woman had to freed from their cars and I just had to watch with tears in my eyes. I was lucky nobody had died. I just wish it would have been me that would have sustained the injuries rather than them.”
Marsh was cut from the wreckage by firefighters and airlifted to Wythenshawe Hospital with a head injury and several fractures; the female driver was left with a broken heel and torn knee ligaments.
It was a miracle no one was killed.
Two weeks later, police called to Flanagan’s home and he was later charged with dangerous driving along with Timm. The striker’s time at the top was as good as over.
“At one of my last sessions at Carrington, I remember Sir Alex Ferguson coming out to watch us and asking me, ‘What happened?'” he said.
“I said, ‘I just took the corner with too much speed, I messed up boss’.
“His reply was, ‘You will f****** learn from that son’. And I sure did. A few months later, I was released from the club.”
After pleading guilty, Flanagan was handed an eight-month sentence at the young offenders’ wing at Lancaster Farms Prison while Timm served a year after contesting the same charge.
The club’s chaplain continued to visit Flanagan and he even received letters of support from United fans, but it was far from an easy ride inside.
“I remember the first night clearly – I was given a bright purple tracksuit and shown to my cell,” he said.
“The other prisoners had seen on the news that night that two Manchester United boys were coming to that prison and were banging on the cell pipe that runs through every cell and shouting my name.”
After spells at Wrexham AFC, Worksop Town and Ashton United, Flanagan was handed a lifeline when Australian side Western Strikers put a call out for new players on Facebook in 2010.
The 31-year-old has since made headlines for the right reasons after he proposed to his then girlfriend, Nikki Pelliccia, as part of an elaborate goal celebration.
Happily married since February, 2014, the couple are currently in the process of building a house in Adelaide while Flanagan trains to be a fireman.
“Although I am still working on it, I have learnt to become a much better person,” he said.
“Life couldn’t have turned out any better for me and I got there in the end. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“If one young aspiring footballer can read this and it have a positive effect on them then it will all have been worth it.”