LIKE the vast majority of kids to come through the youth ranks at Manchester United, Tom Lawrence was unable to establish himself in the first team at Old Trafford.

The Welsh midfielder made just one competitive appearance during the 12 years that he spent on the books at his boyhood heroes.

Yet, Wes Brown, one of those who did make the grade, feels the Rangers player will have developed a title winning mentality during his time at the English giants all the same.

Brown, who lifted the Premier League five times and the Champions League twice, certainly benefitted from rubbing shoulders with some all-time greats of the game when he was a wide-eyed youngster. 

Lawrence – who has gone on to play for Leicester City, Blackburn Rovers, Cardiff City, Ipswich Town and Derby County as well as Rangers – has never won any trophies never mind titles since departing United in 2014.

Could, though, the grounding which he received and the habits he picked up when he was starting out in the professional game prove invaluable in the weeks ahead as Philippe Clement’s men attempt to win the cinch Premiership?

His old club mate believes so. 

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“When I was growing up we used to go to The Cliff,” said Brown during a visit to Edinburgh earlier this week to promote the Manchester United friendly against Rangers at Murrayfield in July. 

“It is a very small building and you had the first team, the reserves, the under-23s and the under-18s in that building. You were always going past someone famous.

“So you were looking up and there was Eric Cantona walking past, there was David Beckham. You are thinking, ‘What is going on?’

The Herald: “But what you learn very quickly is that no one is big headed regardless of how good they are or how much money they have or what they have achieved.

“When they are on the pitch they want to achieve more, they don’t take no for an answer and the commitment levels are always there regardless. That came from the manager (Sir Alex Ferguson) as well.

“It was always about winning, it was always about football. We want to be the best team, we want to show how good we are. That was it. We understood that. If you can have that sort of personality it always helps.

“When I got into the first team I always took it upon myself to have a bit of a laugh with the younger lads and make them understand that it was all about winning, simple as that.”

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Former England internationalist Brown can remember when Lawrence was a fresh-faced hopeful at United and he has not been surprised to see him enjoy a long career at a decent level since leaving.

“Tom was in the youth team,” he said. “I watched him in their games. At that time, it was good coming through the youth team because you were playing alongside really good players.

“We have had quite a lot of youth come through. But they haven’t necessarily gone on to make it at Man United. The problem was the first team was good.

“Phil Bardsley, Kieran Richardson, Jonathan Greening and Danny Wellbeck all played a good few times for Man United. For whatever reason, the manager thought they weren’t quite there. But they went on and had really good careers. I always think that comes from being grounded.

The Herald: “For me, the big thing was Eric Harrison, God bless his soul. He was called the mini gaffer. He is known more for the Class of ’92, but he was my manager as well. He would pretty much tell you straight to your face how it was and what it was going to take, in the nicest possible way.

“You have got to grow up pretty quick here lads, the main thing is hard work, we know you are talented, but if you watch these boys train every day you will see they run harder than you now and they have done it all before. That is what you have got to become.”

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Brown saw Gerard Pique, the celebrated centre half who would go on to win the European Championship and World Cup with Spain as well as the Champions League on three occasions with Barcelona, fail to make the grade at United so he knew that Lawrence having to move on to play was no disgrace. 

“The prime example is Pique,” he said. “We all knew he was excellent. He was still young and learning, but we all knew he was going to be a fantastic player. But at no point did we think we were going to break up Rio (Ferdinand) and (Nemanja) Vidic. It was not going to happen.

“But it was good at that time especially because you still had a lot of clubs who would look at you in the youth team and say, ‘Okay, he is not going to get in the first team, but he has good traits and we really like what we see’. Then players would go to big clubs and have great careers.”

 Brown added: “We all know what Tom can do. He’s an exciting player. He could probably be more consistent, but ultimately you can see the talent is there. He loves football. He did a good job at Derby in difficult circumstances.

“He’s 30 now and you get to a certain point where you want to challenge yourself a little bit and maybe that was his rethinking in coming to Scotland. It’s a little bit different for him and a chance to compete in Europe and for prizes, which will have been important because he does have the ability.

“He’s a grown man now and he wants to get back to a team that has the right qualities, playing in Europe, taking on some of the best teams abroad where the standard is higher. I’ve seen it many times and when you play at a higher standard, you up your own levels and hopefully that’s what happens for Tom.”

The Herald: