Ryan Giggs has accused the British academy system of letting youngsters down and believes their development would benefit from being pitted against grown men.
Giggs made his Manchester United debut at the age of 17 and went on to play a record 963 games for the club across a glittering 24-year senior career.
But Wales manager Giggs says the academy system is leaving the development of British youngsters a long way behind their continental counterparts.
“You see with some of the teams we play what they’ve been through,” Giggs said. “They have that robustness and have minutes under their belt.
“We’ve got the academy system, under-23s football, and young players are not playing enough games.
“When I was 16, I was playing against men – 3pm on a Saturday against Everton in a reserve-team game at Old Trafford.
“I was up against people like Dave Watson and these are the sort of things young players aren’t getting any more.”
Giggs is a fan of the Leasing.com Trophy tournament, which allows Premier League under-23 sides to play competitive games against lower-league opposition.
He saw United’s under-23 side play at Rotherham a few weeks ago when he went to watch the Red Devils’ young Welsh midfielder Dylan Levitt.
“It was a brilliant game,” Giggs said. “It was Rotherham’s first team more or less, they were giants and getting stuck into them.
“The first half, United couldn’t handle it. But in the second half they settled down and won 2-0.
“They had to find a different way of playing, because in the under-23s they don’t lay a glove on each other.
“This was a proper football match, and it’s more about the system than the players.”
Reflecting on his own development in the late 1980s, Giggs said: “I played under-15s against Marine in Liverpool and Eric Harrison (United youth-team manager) played me up front and told the goalkeeper to keep knocking it on to the centre-half.
“I was going up for headers and the bloke kept coming straight through the back of me.
“I knew I wasn’t going to win a header, so I had to find another way. You just don’t get that now.”