Tyrone Mings is looking forward to testing himself against Cristiano Ronaldo as the Aston Villa captain attempts to halt the Manchester United star’s scoring streak.
Back with the Red Devils after 12 years at Real Madrid and Juventus, the Portuguese has hit the ground running with four goals in his first three appearances.
Ronaldo will step out at Old Trafford for the second time since re-joining the club on Saturday lunchtime, when Mings will need to play an instrumental role if Villa are to become the first side to stop him scoring since his return.
The England international is excited by the challenge of facing the 36-year-old, who was banging in goals at the Bernabeu when Mings was playing non-league football at Chippenham.
“I was talking to my best friend about this last night actually because of course playing at Old Trafford and playing against Man United is a big occasion anyway as a player who started quite late in his career and came through non-league,” Mings told the PA news agency
“Of course things like this are special moments because there was a time when I never thought it would happen.
“But I don’t have that non-league head on anymore where it’s kind of fazing or likely to be starstruck.
“But saying that, I’d always want the Ronaldos and the Messis of this world to be in the Premier League to play against because they’re the sort of players you want to not only see in the league but as a defender you want to play against them.
“You want to test yourself against them, you want to learn from them as well because he will do things in a game I’m sure that perhaps you haven’t seen before or individual bits of quality that other people can’t replicate.
“It will be an exciting game no doubt based on the quality the two teams have and, yeah, one that we’re looking forward to.”
Villa, like United, head into Saturday’s meeting following a narrow midweek Carabao Cup exit, with Dean Smith’s much-changed side losing to Chelsea on penalties.
Mings was rested for a match that underlined the improved strength in depth at their disposal, with Jack Grealish’s £100million exit to Manchester City offset by some exciting acquisitions.
“I think that was important with Jack leaving to reinvest the money wisely and to reinvest the money that meant we had a lot more options in a lot more positions,” he said.
“We made some shrewd signings, obviously Ashley Young is a very versatile, very experienced player, who adds a lot to not only the pitch but also the dressing room.
“Then the exciting qualities of the attacking players that we’ve also signed means that, yeah, when we want to make a lot of changes in the cup game, for example, the team that we put out was one that was a really, really impressive team.
“There’s not many teams in the league that can do that if I’m being honest. There’s probably only really the top four that have that kind of strength and depth in the ability to field two really strong 11s. Credit has to go to the recruitment for that.
“We’ve recruited well on the pitch, we’ve also recruited well off the pitch with the two coaches that we’ve brought in – obviously a set piece coach (Austin MacPhee) and Danksy [Aaron Danks], the attacking coach.
“There’s a lot to be excited about and I feel very privileged to be a part of the direction of where the club are going at the moment.”
Mings was speaking on behalf of Alpro, having joined fellow athletes Adam Peaty, Nicola Adams and Heather Watson in building plant-based protein into his diet.
“I’ve tried to make small changes to my diet over the years and try and implement a little bit of plant-based into my daily routine,” the England defender said as part of the “Team PB” campaign.
“I think we’re, just as a generation, a little bit more conscious of everything we do.
“So, if it can be small changes to maybe reduce our carbon footprint or be more sustainable, everybody’s trying to do something.”
:: Tyrone Mings has joined Adam Peaty, Nicola Adams, and Heather Watson to form Alpro’s “Team PB” as they look to get the UK trying more plant-based protein and sports. Visit: https://www.alpro.com/uk