The Burnley sensation, who has been in blistering form this season, was hardened by his Red Devils snub, and it helped him score better GCSE grades in maths and science.
Dwight McNeil was a pupil at Oasis Academy Oldham, winning a Federation of Oldham Schools Sports Association award for his football ability.
The fledgling winger was released by Manchester United, and in truth it knocked him for six.
But rather than dwell on that devastating news, he showed a steely determination that teachers at his secondary school, Oasis Academy Oldham know very well.
McNeil, now 19, worked at his game and he was soon snapped up by Burnley, where he's flourishing under the mentorship of Sean Dyche.
He was given a standing ovation by Clarets fans after a man of the match performance against Wolves last week, netting in a 2-0 win.
His epic rise even saw him train with Gareth Southgate's England squad during the last international break.
But before he became one of the most-talked about young players in the country, he was a diligent pupil who understood he needed a Plan B, if a career in football didn't come to fruition.
His former maths and science teachers told us how he transformed himself from a grade D student and scored C's in his GCSE exams through hard graft - a trait that also helped him bounce back from footballing disappointment.
McNeil's Year 11 maths teacher Mark Higginson, 33, revealedHe was good at maths, he was in the top set.
"But he did struggle with his exams, which he and his parents were aware of. They knew he had to have a Plan B if he didn't become a footballer.
"When Dwight did his mocks, he got D's. But he worked on his exam technique, right up until the very end.
"And when it came to his real exam, he got that C and we were really pleased for him.
"He had to bounce back from the setback of failing his mocks, kept working at it and he got there comfortably in the end."
Science teachers Jennifer Wildbure, 39, and Natalie Amis, 33, were equally as impressed by McNeil's work ethic and temperament.
Amis said: "He wanted to leave school with qualifications, he was determined not to walk away empty-handed."
While Wildbure revealed: "Science didn't come naturally to Dwight, but he tried everything he could and achieved two C's at the end.
"He was very studious and when he was on day release at Burnley, he made sure he collected work he might've missed when he came back.
"And he was also so competitive in lessons. If you played a science game, you'd see a very different side to him.
He wanted to leave school with qualifications, he was determined not to walk away empty-handed. - Science Teacher, Natalie Amis
"I remember we played Battleships with physics equations, and when the child he was playing against gave a completely different answer, he would say, 'Miss, I'm not having it.'"
It was in PE where McNeil, a natural athlete, showed his greatest promise.
The facilities at Oasis Academy Oldham, including 3G and 4G football pitches, as well as a first class gym allow sporty students to progress.
In fact, the school currently boasts talents training with Everton and Bury.
And for McNeil, the son of former non-league footballer Matty McNeil, it was the perfect setting.
He took it hard when he got released from Manchester United, and the reason they gave him was that he wasn't very good at set-pieces. - PE Teacher, Richard Snape
PE teacher Richard Snape, 40, taught the wonderkid from the ages of 11-16 and saw his ability early doors.
"When he was in Year 7, he was already training with Manchester United," he said.
"His dad, who was always very supportive, had taken him down there, he was a great player, hard working and really well mannered.
"He was left-footed, and he had a really good shot on him.
"There were certain moments when he played, where he'd bring the ball onto his left side and ping it in the top corner.
"And his dad made sure he was always available for the school team because he thought it would help his development."
Snape recalled how McNeil took the heartbreak of being told he wasn't good enough for the Red Devils. Their reasoning seems ironic today.
"He took it hard when he got released from Manchester United, and the reason they gave him was that he wasn't very good at set-pieces.
"That's quite funny because at Burnley he takes the corners and free kicks, so it's something he's clearly worked at."
And Snape recently went to watch the prodigy in a game against his beloved team.
Original article via The Sun - by Jonathan Boom