The Dutchman joined the Red Devils’ PES team in 2019.

Eldridge O’Niel is a professional PES player from the Netherlands. He currently represents Manchester United along with the Dutch national side as an Esports athlete. Since the beginning of his competitive career in 2013, he’s achieved tremendous feats. Some of the most prominent ones include being a two-time world finalist at the PES League and captaining Celtic and Manchester United’s PES esports teams.

Additionally, he’s also won three Dutch PES Leagues, one European Soccer Challenge and one Reality Event among other accolades.

In an exclusive interview with Khel Now, Eldridge O’Niel shared his experience and thoughts as a Manchester United Esports player:

On representing Manchester United

First up, O’Niel shared his thoughts on playing for the Red Devils. “To represent Manchester United is a dream for me. To be fair, a few years back, I’d have never imagined representing Manchester United as an Esports player. It is one of the biggest clubs in the world. You get to work with great staff, great people who are like a family inside the club. To be part of this amazing team, I’m very happy and it’s my third year with them now. I hope I can stay here for many years to come,” he began.

Transition from Celtic to Manchester United

On 12 December 2019, Eldridge announced his signing for Manchester United. With that, he became the club’s captain and part of their first-ever Esports PES team. Regarding his journey from scratch to Celtic and presently United, O’Niel expressed, “The transition was hard as the pressure’s really high for a club like Manchester United, which is used to winning. They are a team with many titles and championships.

“So, when I knew that I was signing for Manchester United, I knew the pressure would be high and bigger. We always have to make sure that we give our best performances and be role-models for everyone. Manchester United is not only a club but also a brand,” he added.

“Being affiliated with this brand, you have to behave yourself and display your best possibilities. I really knew what was asked of me to be representing Manchester United. So, the match was perfect for me, as I am a winner myself and very competitive. As I said, the pressure is really high but in my opinion, I’m doing really well,” said the Dutch Esports player.

Regarding co-existence of Esports with traditional sports

Further, Eldridge O’Niel responded to a question on the co-existence of Esports and traditional sports. “I think they can (co-exist). I think in a few years Esports will be the biggest sport alongside football, maybe even bigger. Many people are watching PES. In the end, they can definitely exist alongside each other. Not only with football, but other games as well, probably. It is something you just can’t ignore,” he answered, emphasizing Esports’ ever-growing popularity.

He also disclosed the impact of traditional sports signings on Esports. Eldridge summarized the relationship between the two and how they directly play a role for each other. He said, “Most of the time when you play an Esports competition, you play with the team of a club. So, the players that they sign are important for the Esports team as well. For example, if we sign Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s a big advantage for us, as he’s very good in the game.

“In the future, there might be a situation where the ESports Premier League would be played alongside the real one. So, in my opinion, I really think the two can co-exist together because, in 10 years Esports will be huge. Many people are already following both football and Esports and more young people are following Esports (more) than football. Clubs have started to see the potential of Esports in younger people, not just Manchester United but all clubs over the world,” said O’Niel.

Esports and the Olympics

Just around a week back, it was announced that Esports would make its debut at the Asian Games in 2022. Based on this, O’Niel spoke about one of the trendiest topics; the debate around its potential inclusion in the Olympics. He replied, “Yes, I think it will be a part of the Olympics. As Esports is growing more and more, you can’t ignore it.

“It is competitive in nature, even though you do it behind a console. For me, Esports should be part of the Olympics because if you include it, you get a whole (new) audience watching the Olympics. So, for the Olympics as well, it is a huge opportunity to get more people to watch.”

Esports as a career in India

Next up, the athlete gave his sincere advice to Esports enthusiasts in India. Considering some of the setbacks for the same in the country, he said, “The first thing I have to say is don’t give up and don’t listen to people around you,” he said stressing on the importance of not paying attention to the negative opinions.

Elaborating on similar experiences in his case, Eldridge O’Niel continued, “if I listen to people around, I wouldn’t be an Esports player myself. Follow your dreams and if you want to be an Esports player work hard, learn and train with the best. Keep going. If I listened to my surroundings, I’d have stopped playing Esports. Infact, I even considered it at one point, but a few months later I simply signed my first contract. Half a year later, I was signed by Manchester United.

“If I had listened, I wouldn’t be sitting here and talking to you. So, if you want to be an Esports player and that’s your dream, go for it. Even then, make sure you have something as a backup as well. But, in the end, follow your heart. Whatever your dream is, whichever game, go for it and try your hardest.”

Insight into training routines of Esports athletes

Eldridge O’Niel was asked about the training and practice routine of Esports athletes and if they shared any similarities with athletes from the real game. Once again, he referred to the general competitive nature of the sport. “For me, competitiveness is in my nature. As soon as I get the game, I start playing and want to be the best. I start to learn everything about the game. Play against the best players I know, try and beat them even if it’s just a practice session because I just hate losing,” he responded.

“I just want to be good at whatever I play. So, for me, my training and schedule is playing all day every day. Sometimes, I take breaks, eat and sleep. Sometimes, I play sports and do whatever else I need to be fresh and play again with the best focus possible. With my teammates, I have a lot of banter. For me, the training schedule is just getting up, eating right, playing the game, take rest, maybe watch some anime series and then play again. Basically, I’m playing all day,” he added.

Thoughts on United signing Cristiano Ronaldo

“All I can say is Siuuu,” he joyously responded when asked about the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United.

Eventually, he also spoke about picking Ronaldo as a centre-foward considering the squad’s depth currently. “Cristiano Ronaldo will be my main striker. Probably alongside (Marcus) Rashford, (Jadon) Sancho or maybe (Anthony) Martial. Even (Mason) Greenwood is possible, but it’s hard. Also, we have (Edinson) Cavani, so it is definitely hard. But, the thing is we have to see which players are best suitable for the next game. Depending on this and the game’s mechanics it can change,” he said talking about his club’s revamped squad.

“I prefer a 4-3-3 formation; four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards and along with (Raphael) Varane, all of these are great additions to the game as well. Also, with a great season of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba last season, I think they have a boost in their stats. We have Sancho and Greenwood in the squad as well. So, game-wise, we are all happy to choose from these options.”

Reasons for playing football as an esport

Lastly, Eldridge O’Niel elaborated on the reasons as to why he choose football over other Esports. “I have played eFootball all my life. I played other games just for fun. But, football runs through my family. I have a brother that plays football, another who runs a football school. As brothers, we’ve always played along with each other. Ever since then, I’ve played this game and I’ve never stopped. It’s just my first love. Basically, that’s it,” he remarked.

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