Luton midfielder Chong looking forward to his 'special' return to Manchester United
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Town midfielder Tahith Chong is readying himself for a ‘special’ return to former club Manchester United this afternoon.
The 23-year-old, who was born in Curaçao, spent six years at Old Trafford after leaving Feyenoord to join the Red Devils’ Academy set-up in 2016.
He impressed when coming through the ranks, named the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year in 2018, also going on to be awarded the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award in 2019.
Breaking into the first team squad, Chong earned a debut in the 2-0 FA Cup win over Reading in January 2019 and eventually went on to play 16 times for the Red Devils in total, including five outings in the Premier League.
Loans at Werder Bremen and Club Brugge followed, while he also went to Birmingham City in July 2021, a move that became permanent the following summer when the Blues shelled out £1.5m to secure his services.
Joining the Hatters for around £4m after they won promotion to the top flight, Chong, along with centre half Teden Mengi, makes his first return this weekend, as on the magnitude of the fixture, he said: “We’re in the Premier League, so every game is going to be a massive one for us.
"It’s something to look forward to, we’ll prepare and see what the coaching staff has planned out for us and then try to execute it.
“I think in the Premier League you look forward to every single one.
"It’s going to be a little bit special playing against an old club, but you’re in the Premier League, so there’s big games everywhere really.”
After a tough start to life in the top flight, Chong believes the Hatters are improving every week, with no better example Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool.
It was a game that saw the midfielder come off the bench and score a terrific first goal for the club when finishing off a lightning counter attack from the hosts with 10 minutes to go.
Although they couldn’t hold on, Luis Diaz equalising in stoppage time, Chong continued: “For us it’s seeing from the first game against Brighton coming up to now, you can see every single game we’ve improved and improved.
"It’s very good to see and for us it’s important to take that with us, but also know that there’s still some ways we can improve and keep going.
"It’s super important just to keep our heads down and keep working.
"You can see throughout the weeks we’re improving game by game.
“Even thinking back some of the games, the Tottenham game where we felt we could have got something and we didn't.
"There’s belief there to take that we can compete at this level.”
Luton will now look to take that belief with them to Old Trafford today as they hunt a first ever win at the famous stadium following 16 successive defeats.
Town will be cheered on by just over 3,000 in the away end and Chong is eager to reward them for the support received throughout the opening 11 games of the campaign, saying: "A special mention to the fans, they've been brilliant.
"All the home games, but even the away games as well, it's going to be so important for us.
"Even when the results haven't gone our way, they’ve been brilliant, right behind us.
"That’s a massive thing for us going through the season, to make it a difficult atmosphere for teams to come and they are part of that, so hopefully then can keep doing that for us.
“Seeing how the fans chant through the whole game you can really feel them on the pitch.
"It’s so important for them to be behind us as we know we’re not going to be able to win every single game, we’re going to try to, but it’s not going to be possible.
"So they're so important as even the games when the results didn't go our way, you can still hear them being loud and that’s such a big thing for us, knowing that they’re behind us, is massive.”
With Chong having such a cameo against the Reds last Sunday, he is now hoping to get a start at his former club, although will be ready to perform whatever role boss Rob Edwards has in mind for him.
He added: “For me, it's important whether I'm starting or whether I’m coming off the bench to help the team in any way I can.
"That’s up to the manager if I start.
“You're always going to work hard and always want to be in the starting team, but if you're not you have to be switched on to come on and make an impact.”