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Adnan Januzaj on United, Real Sociedad and Paul Pogba

The Belgian winger looks back on his Old Trafford years as a meeting with his former side looms.

Adnan Januzaj against Rijeka  in the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League
Adnan Januzaj against Rijeka in the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League Getty Images

Winger Adnan Januzaj got something of a shock when his Real Sociedad team were drawn against Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League round of 32.

Now 26, Januzaj moved to Old Trafford from Anderlecht when he was just 15, and was tipped for stardom only to lose his grip on a first-team place following boss Sir Alex Ferguson and successor David Moyes' departures. He tells UEFA.com about his time with the Red Devils and his feelings about meeting close friend Paul Pogba on the pitch.

On facing his old club in the UEFA Europa League

Five memorable Manchester United Europa League goals
Five memorable Manchester United Europa League goals

I love United a lot, they're my favourite club, and even to this day I watch every single game of theirs because I love the club. Obviously, when I saw that I would have to play against United, it was a bit of a weird feeling. But at the end of the day I want to play them and try to beat them, to show them also what they have missed and stuff like that.

I’m sure also that [for] the other young boys that play for Real Sociedad, it’s a dream to play at Old Trafford. It will probably be one of the biggest games in their career, so I think it will be amazing for everybody.

On leaving Belgium at 15 to join United

When I first went to England, I was like "why am I here?". The language was different, the people were different. It was really difficult. But then, the team-mates I had at United, the people that were working at United, were amazing people, people that really, really helped me and that were pushing me. I had really great coaches from a young age who also pushed me. That’s the most important thing for a young player.

I also had players that I grew up with, like Paul Pogba. We were in the classroom together for a few years, so it gave me a bit more confidence, I had more fun. It was like one year to help me integrate into the English mentality. I really loved that. For me, my best memories were when I was in England.

On his memories of Sir Alex Ferguson

Legendary Moments: Sir Alex on '99 glory
Legendary Moments: Sir Alex on '99 glory

It was in training when he was always pushing me. He [said]: "Adnan, you have to work, you have to work, work, work because with your talents, you’re going to make it here because you have very great potential." Sir Alex was someone that really believed in me, and obviously when he left the club, I was very sad because I thought if he was still there, I would also still be there. But at the end of the day, football takes you somewhere else.

On Real Sociedad’s Europa League prospects

If we beat United, then I think we have a bigger chance, the biggest chance to win the Europa League. For me, United right now – the United of today – is the toughest opponent in the Europa League that you could get. We know we can make everything happen in this Europa League campaign and we have a lot of things to show people.

On a reunion with Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba and Adnan Januzaj with the Manchester Senior Cup in 2012
Paul Pogba and Adnan Januzaj with the Manchester Senior Cup in 2012Manchester United via Getty Imag

We play PlayStation together so we don’t really talk [then] – but sometimes I tease him a little bit via video call [about this tie] because we are in contact a lot.

It will be weird [to play against him] because off the pitch we are amazing friends, and we have such good, close contact. We have known each other from a young age. We grew up at United together, we’ve gone through a lot of things. So having him in front of me – it’s good that we don’t play in the same position! I don’t think we will have much contact between each other, but obviously for my part I want to win that game.