It’s been a whirlwind six months for Brandon Williams. From relative obscurity to a Manchester United starter, the only thing that stopped his ascension is the thing that has stopped the whole world. But as soon as he’s able, he’ll be back on the path towards greatness, which just so happens to be down the left side of United’s attacks.

A humble, family man who’s focused on the pitch and relaxed off it, Williams talked us through his unusual beginnings in the game, telling us who he owes his start to, and what his ultimate ambitions in the game are. Such is his talent it’s easy to forget that he was born this side of the millennium, but he's focused on the return of football, determined to cement his place in the United side and help the team find success.

So how are you doing Brandon, how is lockdown treating you, are you all good?

Yes, good thanks. Just been chilling, really. It’s been tough, but just doing the program that we've been sent and, you know, trying to do the right things. The club have sent over a work out plan and the aim is to keep on top of things, so that we don’t stop working and developing.

It must be a bit of a mad experience... Going from having the best of the best facilities and such open space to being literally in your house and doing full workouts.

Yeah that’s what I mean, at United’s training ground you've got everything you could think of and then when you come out, you obviously don't have that. So yeah, it’s different. I don't have a treadmill, but I'd rather run. It’s getting out the house as well, I prefer to do that.

What else have you been doing or watching while we’re in lockdown?

I’ve just been playing a lot of Call of Duty and also watching a lot of Disney +. I’ve been re-watching all of the old ones.

Which Lion King is better, the old one or the new one?

The old one, number one. You can’t beat it. The new one makes it look more real and stuff but you can’t beat the OG Lion King. There’s all the old programmes on there I used to watch, stuff like the Wizards of Waverly Place and stuff like that. So I’ve just been watching all of that.

Are you living at the place you grew up?

Yeah, I'm still at my mum's where I have grown up since I was a baby.

Family is obviously very important, how were they when you broke into the Man Utd team?

Obviously, they were are all very proud of me, and they were just telling everyone, like everyone was coming up to them saying congratulations and stuff. So they were really proud of me. And obviously they're all massive United fans, so it means that little bit extra. It’s extra extra special to them.

Did you grow up as a Man Utd fan?

Yeah for as long as I can remember, to be honest, always been a United fan. The whole family are too.

Manchester United are one of the biggest club’s in the world, does it still feel like that to you? As massive as they were to you as a kid, now that you’re playing in the first team?

Yeah, you don't really realise how big the club is until you travel abroad. When you go to a different country, you see that some countries are even more fanatic about United than people are in England. It's crazy how big the club is.

It is crazy, when you go abroad and usually one of the first questions people ask is what football team you support – whatever the answer, everyone will know Manchester United.

Yeah when people say Manchester, they just think Man United. It is crazy how many fans there are across the world.

When you have those experiences and see what the club means to people, you must still feel super proud of what you've accomplished and what you’re doing now?

Yeah definitely. It's a journey I'm proud to be on and I just want to carry on.

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How is it with your mates? For them to have a mate who is playing for Man United, that’s got to be quite something...

Yeah kind of, but they just see me as still being me, to be honest. Like they always say to me, “it’s mad”. It’s mad how people come up and say things to me but they just see me as who I was five or 10 years ago. Everything is still normal with them.

I suppose they’ve just been on this journey with you? They’ve grown up with you since you were a youth playing at Man United since you were really young...

I've got friends from since I was three, 10, 15, so I've got friends who have been on the journey at different times, but everyone has experienced me step into the first team.

As a laugh, do they ever give you grief after games? It must be good to have that group who can keep you grounded...

Yeah, you always have them couple of lads… if you lose or do something, they’ll video it and put it in the group chat or something. They are onto me, there’s a lot of banter. It’s all good though.

What's it like where you where you live and where you are now, is that where, you were kicking a ball as a kid? Is it where you learned to play football first?

Yeah, literally. It was my cousin who introduced me to it all, he lives across the road and he was mad for football. I didn't really have interest in football at the time. This is when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I was just at that stage. He told me to come play football for a bit and I have literally got a football pitch around the back of my house, a concrete one. Just one net. So we just used to go down there and he basically taught me just how to play football.

Can you set the scene a little bit then, from there did you enjoy getting together with all your mates and playing football all day long then? What was it like for you...

I think everyone did their own bits but it changed me and from then, all I can remember is that literally I just wanted play football every day, like it was hard to keep me indoors, to be honest. I just literally went out every single day kicking the ball.

Those early memories are special, what else can you remember from the beginning? Who helped paved the way for you to start loving football?

It was my cousin who taught me how to play from an early age and then one day I went to school and my friend's dad came up to me and was like, oh, do you play football? I was like, No, not really. Don't play football. So it was like, oh, we've got a team here on the weekend and we need players. If we don't have this extra player, then we can’t enter into this game. They didn't have enough players... So they were more like, “oh will you just do us a favour and sit on the bench or something”. So I was like alright, cool. So we went to a JJB Sports, got some boots and shin pants, went on the Saturday morning and then I was on the bench but then someone got injured so it meant I had to come on. Like, I had to and then I scored a hat trick because I was an attacker then, I’ve dropped back now [laughs] and then, yeah, I just went from there.

So it was all new to you at that stage? That’s a crazy introduction to it...

Yeah, it was just all new, I wasn’t really used to it. I had kicked a ball about but never like that. I think it was because I was fast to be honest. I was fast from an early age and I think that’s one thing that really made me interested in football, because I could just run past everyone at school and score [laughs]. I just run now, I don’t score [laughs].

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I knew that if I kept playing well – good football in the 23s – then I might have a chance in the Carabao Cup. So it was very unexpected but I always believed I could do it"


You’ve got one goal for United… that’s one more than most people, one more than us...

Ha, yeah it was an alright finish. [laughs].

Sounds like you’ve got your cousin to thank for a lot. What’s he doing now, do you still see him?

Yeah he’s still about and still playing, he plays for a local team. He’s always asking me to come to games and stuff and he always comes and sees me.

Is he now trying to get you to play for his Sunday League team?

Ha! Yeah, I go watch him sometimes.

Does he take all the credit for it then, you becoming a professional player?

Yeah, he tells everyone, every time he comes round “I’m the one who took him out, I’m the one who threw a ball at him to chest and control it”. He tells everyone...

Touching on that first goal, this year must have been mad for you, how would you describe it?

It's been crazy. Everything has just gone so fast, like it's not even been a year. I mean, I think it's halfway to a year. I think it's six months. Everything's just happened so quickly and I just want it to be for many more years now.

Were you expecting it? Like, did you know that this year you’d get your chance and this was going to be your time?

Well, before I made my debut, I was in the Under-23s and I knew I was playing well. I knew that if the Carabao Cup got drawn and I kept playing well – good football in the 23s – then I might have a chance in the Carabao Cup. So it was very unexpected but I always believed I could do it.

How did that conversation happen? Did Ole call you? Did you get pulled into the Manager’s office? What happens when you get told you might make your debut?

I was just training that morning and I was just doing what we normally do before a game and then the team sheet got announced. I think Kieran pulled me aside and said, “you're probably going to be in the squad, be ready” so I’ve gone home and then the text came through with the team that was travelling. So I've told my mum, told everyone. I thought I was gonna be in the stands, I thought I was just going to be travelling like I did to Paris. But then I saw the team sheet and I saw that I was on the bench. That was a really proud moment.

Crazy. I bet you couldn’t believe it could you?

No… and then the way everything just happened for the game. For someone getting injured… and then for me to go on… everything opened up for me.

Did you or do you feel any nerves in a situation like that? Knowing you’re about to come on...

No, everyone always asks me, “were you nervous?” It was more excitement. I don’t really have nerves, and I don’t really get nervous. I just had to show what I had. I wasn’t known to anybody so I really didn’t feel any pressure.

How does it feel stepping out at Old Trafford for the first time? All that work that has gone into getting you there, how did you feel being part of the team?

Yeah. Everyone always asks me and it's always hard to put into words. There are no words that can describe that situation other than... You can only really feel it when you've experienced it. From being literally, 10 minutes out from Old Trafford to then playing at Old Trafford is mad.

What does your routine look like after a game? You must be buzzing to play in front of 70,000 people. What do you do to unwind?

So I just come home, get some food and literally just watch a film or play PlayStation and just wake up the  the next day for training. I do struggle getting to sleep after games because you’ve had all the caffeine and stuff and you’re buzzing from the game so you’re awake for a bit.

From a personal point of view... Surely it's got to be a mad feeling to think how your life has changed over the past twelve months?

Yeah, it is mad, like my life has changed a bit. I can’t really just go to Asda and help my mum or something, I can’t do those kind of things. Everyone around me is just the same like no one's changed, I haven't changed with them, so everything's fine. With family and stuff, it’s just the little things that will obviously change.

Do you think the people around you have kept you grounded and helped keep your head on your shoulders?

Yeah. Because everyone tells me every day, “you’re still Brandon, you’re still Brandon”. Doesn’t mean you need to go out and act any differently, nothing changes in my head. That comes from my family and friends. Probably more from my friends because in a good way, they don’t care what they say. They’ll just tell me.

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They’ll tell me when I’ve done good and they’ll tell me when I’ve done bad, so I think it’s just those little comments you get every now and then that just keep me grounded, keep me level headed and not make me think I’m above everyone"

Is there one particular bit of advice or a conversation in your family that has really helped you through the process of the last few years?

I think it’s just the little comments really that they give me after a game or something like that. They’ll tell me when I’ve done good and they’ll tell me when I’ve done bad so I think it’s just in the little comments you get every now and then that just keep me grounded, keep me level headed and not make me think I’m above everyone.

It’s got to be the smaller things that can have a big affect, like Instagram numbers as an example… you’ve now got over 600,000 people following you. It’s a crazy number... People don’t really think about that side of things – it can be an overnight change. How does that feel?

I think it's just all the support, really. I appreciate it all and obviously I don't really look at it too much. I'll post after a game or something like that but I'm not really one of those people obsessed with social media. Like I’m not someone hunting to get to this many followers or whatever. That doesn’t worry me. I just see it as a lot of support and I’m grateful for it.

So it’s quite easy for you to avoid typing your name into Google and seeing what people are saying about you then?

Yeah, I’m not into that really. I’m online and I know I’m online. There’s people out there who love me, people out there who hate me – I’m not really fussed about it to be honest.

When you’re coming through, getting more attention, brands start to come towards you – how do you put all that stuff to the side and focus on the stuff that you think is most important?

I think obviously after a game there's going to be loads of stuff on social media, but I think it's best if you don't read it. If you know you've had a really good game, people would say you've had a bad game. If you've had a really bad game, then there's some people that tell you you had a really good game. So I think if you don't read it, you don't really know. So that's what I tend to do. I don’t have Twitter, I think that’s the place where people tend to voice their opinions most. I think it can damage players if they get too into that.

Yeah. Twitter is renowned as a keyboard warrior playground...

Yeah I think it’s best left alone. What you don’t know is not going to hurt you.

What was it like to sign your first brand deal and work with Puma?

With with Puma, I was really excited and keen to sign because they gave me a lot of opportunities to do things like this and they're a good brand and they’re always helping me out. Because Puma is a worldwide brand as well, when you get a call from them and you get that kind of thing done then it’s a relief. I’m just happy to be a puma player.

As you don’t give too much away on social media, what we’d like to know is who is Brandon Williams? What are you like away from the pitch? What do you like? What music are you into?

I'm just a chilled guy, to be honest. I like doing things, but obviously with training demands and stuff, it's hard to do other things and you just want to recover and rest. With Europa League and stuff we play on Sunday then Thursday. So we're we're always away on Saturday, we're always away on Wednesdays and Thursdays and Sunday is travelling and playing. So I think I'm just a normal kid from Manchester.  I see it that way. I'm just like everyone around here.

I'm always listening to music. I’m more into American music. Rap and stuff, I like those kind of artists from over there.  I'm always listening to them. People like A Boogie, Roddy Rich, Little TJ, I think all them lot at the minute. They’re my favourite artists and that kind of vibe. I listen to a few artists from the UK. People like Dave.

Given it’s such a demanding lifestyle, would you say you have had to sacrifice a lot? At least to the point of doing what normal kids would be doing at this age – you’re on a different path...

I think that only really my mum and dad really know what sacrifices I’ve made. I’ve had to make a lot in the sense that my friends will be asking me to do things but obviously I can’t because we have games coming up and I’ve got training. I know what I’ve got to do to be able to get myself ready to be in the team and stuff. So I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices over the years but obviously it’s been so worth it.

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We’ve seen you’re big into your boxing, can you tell us about that?

Yeah, my big cousin is Zelfa Barret, he’s a professional boxer. I’ve got his gloves and shorts from his last fight. I need to get them framed. He won the Commonwealth title, so I'm going to get all that framed. I've been to a couple of his fights. From when he was fighting in the Middleton Arena or a sports hall through to arenas where he has been fighting now. I like it. Obviously because we’re close, I get to go in the changing rooms and stuff before a fight. It’s mad how different it is for boxers compared to footballers and how they warm up how they warm up before a fight. Because they don’t play a match week in week out, it’s so different. Like when Zelfa gets told a fight date, he’s literally in boxing mode and you can’t go see him. You hardly get a phone call or a text off him. He’s just in a zone. Then when you go to a fight, it’s just him and his trainer hitting bags. Whereas in football, we have countless people around us.

It must be quite nice having that that sort of relatable character, though. Another athlete in the family who you have things in common with like how they train, how they focus, how they eat etc...

I think Zelfa will never let me relax. He’s one of them guys who is always working, always doing work to make himself better. He’s a good person to have around you. He’s always telling me, “drink this, drink that, you need to eat this” like when we go out for food and stuff. When we’re on off season, we normally go for runs and stuff like that together. I miss them runs at the moment.

With those kinds of role models in mind, were there any players that have taken you under their wing and guided you at all this year?

That’s the nice thing, literally everybody, from when I first trained with the first team and I first moved into the first team dressing room, everyone’s always checking in to see if I’m alright and showing me around. Everyone was just being nice to me and not making me feel uncomfortable in any way.

When you do that first training session, with the first team, do you feel like you have to prove yourself or do you feel quite confident in those kind of pressure situations?

I think because you come in, in the morning and you’ll either get a text or the coach will tell you, “you’re with the first team at this time”, then you go into the gym just before training and you just see everyone. It’s hard to describe, it’s all different. And then when you go out onto the pitch, you just want to prove yourself. Not try and do things that you wouldn’t normally do because they’ve picked you because of what you did in previous games or sessions with other age groups. So I think it’s just do your best and hopefully impress the manager.

Are there any early milestones or achievements that you want to achieve when the season gets back underway?

Obviously one of them is to help the team get higher in the table, of course, as a team but individually I want to score at Old Trafford. That would mean more than anything to me at the minute. As a team we’re still in three competitions. We can get into the Champions League, we can obviously win the FA Cup and we can win the Europa League.

Is it ever crazy to hear yourself saying those words? You’re talking about yourself in all these tournaments with one of the biggest club’s in the world. As a fan of the club and now a player, how does that feel?

It is but I think we know as a team, the progress we have made. We’re a young team and we always fight until the end. I believe that if the season starts again, we’ll be in Champions League football next year.

Scoring at Old Trafford, have you played what that moment would be like in your head?

Yeah. It could have happened already when we played Norwich but we won’t talk about that one [laughs]. Hopefully I will get in more positions like that and I can find the net this time.

Are there players whose careers you’d like to follow or replicate?

I think Patrice Evra, he came back to do his United coaching badges. He sat down with me and gave me a lot of advice. Things like what it means to be a Man United player and what it means to stay there for 15-20 years and the majority of your career. Everyone else who is around the club who has been there and done it. People like Nicky Butt who is the head of the academy. They are always giving you valuable advice.

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Is that what you'd like to do? Be at Man Utd for 10, 15 or 20 years?

Yeah. This is what I've dreamed of. I'm a united fan, so I don't see why I'd want to move away. I just want to keep on playing for the club.