David Gray: Hibs captain 'learned from the best' as Manchester United youth
Hibernian captain David Gray says joining Manchester United at 16 helped "set a standard I've kept with me my whole career".
The 30-year-old full-back was with Hearts from primary school age but had his heart set on a move to England.
He spent six years at Old Trafford, returning to Edinburgh in 2014 via Preston, Stevenage and Burton Albion.
"It was great for my own experience, to go to such a big club and to learn from the very best," Gray said.
"I went down there with the ambition of working as hard as I could every day and to buy into what everyone was telling me and just being as good as I can.
"The most important thing I learned there wasn't just about being a player. It was about being a professional and how to conduct yourself on and off the pitch."
Gray was in the same young Hearts team as Lee Wallace, Andrew Driver and Jason Thomson, while his contemporaries at Manchester United included Gerard Pique, Giuseppe Rossi, Johnny Evans, Darren Gibson, Fraizer Campbell and Ryan Shawcross.
"I knew I was going to be leaving school and going down south, which was something I always wanted to do," he said. "When the opportunity came up, I couldn't turn it down."
The Hibs skipper revealed that then United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had "a wee soft spot" for him, making it easier to settle away from home.
"It definitely helped being Scottish," he explained. "We had something in common straight away and he was fantastic with me. He was great with everybody actually and that is why he was so successful.
"His attention to detail is incredible. I remember my first day and he knew everything about me - about my mum and dad, everything. So to have the opportunity to learn from him was a dream come true."
Gray signed a new four-year deal this week, along with fellow defender Darren McGregor.
Announcing the deal, Hibs said the "long-term plan" for both is to take on "positions within the club that make the most of their experience and leadership qualities".
However, Gray aims to keep on playing for as long as he can.
"I've been unlucky with a few injuries in my career, but I've been able to deal with that mentally," he added. "It's the buzz and drive of playing that keeps me going."