Luton midfielder happy to find out he helped shape Paul Pogba's career at Manchester United

Ryan Tunnicliffe and Paul Pogba in action for Manchester United during their FA Youth Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea in 2011Ryan Tunnicliffe and Paul Pogba in action for Manchester United during their FA Youth Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea in 2011
Ryan Tunnicliffe and Paul Pogba in action for Manchester United during their FA Youth Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea in 2011
French star pays tribute to Tunnicliffe and co during first spell in England

Hatters midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe was happy to learn he played some part in the rise of World Cup winner Paul Pogba’s career at Manchester United.

The French star headed to Old Trafford from Le Havre in 2007 when aged just 14, spending five years at the club under Sir Alex Ferguson, where he was part of a highly successful youth team.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In an interview with the Red Devils’ official website in December last year, Pogba credited a few of the United youngsters who helped him settle into life in England the most, with Tunnicliffe one of them.

He said: “I remember I was with Joshua King a lot and he helped me improve my English, also Ryan Tunnicliffe and Jesse (Lingard) as well.

“I couldn’t speak much English but I went to school here so it helped me a lot. Just talking with the guys in the dressing room helped me, that’s when you learn the most, I think.”

Tunnicliffe himself was progressing through the club's academy too in those days, becoming a scholar in 2009, turning pro the same year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With him and Pogba taking the central midfield berths in the Red Devils' youth team at the time, he thought it important to help his team-mate integrate into life in a new country.

Speaking to the press this afternoon, Tunnicliffe said: “When he first came to the club he was a good lad.

"He was loud, but I’d been there quite a while so anything I could’ve done to help him (I did).

“You see how good a player he is when you try to get around him.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He was my midfield partner so we tried bonding a relationship off the field and to improve on the field, so it’s nice of him to say that.

“I think I’m quite a nice guy, so if he thinks I helped him, then I was more than happy because he’s gone on to do great things, so if I can take a slight bit of credit for that, then I’m happy.

"I think everyone can see that he’s world-class.

"I played alongside him quite a few times, it was a while back so to play against him will be quite fun for me, and I’m sure he’d say the same as well."

With Pogba alongside him, Tunnicliffe helped the Red Devils to win the FA Youth Cup in 2011, playing in a side that also contained Ravel Morrison, Jesse Lingard and Michael Keane.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They beat Sheffield United 6-3 in the final, as Tunnicliffe continued: "Me, Rav Morrison, Jesse, we grew up together from nine years old.

"To win the Youth Cup is probably the biggest competition you can win when you’re in the youth team, so it was a great achievement and one we’d been working for since we were 10, 11, 12, when we knew what it was.

"I speak to a few of them now and then.

"We’re not best mates, but probably once a month, or once every two months we’ll say hi, because we grew up together for 10-15 years.

"So it’s a bond that’s quite hard to break."

Although both Tunnicliffe and Pogba left Old Trafford within a few years of each other, heading to Fulham and Juventus respectively, Pogba made his return in August 2016 for a fee reported to be just under £90m.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He has come in for criticism from some elements of United supporters, but Tunnicliffe doesn't think that will affect him, adding: "He was on the cusp of getting into the first team and everyone knew what a talent he was, but, obviously, when a club like Juventus come knocking, it was his decision and he chose to go and play games.

"If you look back now, it wasn’t a bad decision because he’s won Italian leagues and cups and now he’s back where he started and playing for the biggest club in the world, so it wasn’t a bad decision, but I was shocked.”

"You see the haircuts he has and people want to focus on that.

"You get players like that over the years, and players like that now, that people want to nitpick and find faults, just to get on him, really, which is wrong, but that’s the world we’re living in at the moment.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Anything he does is magnified. If he gives a stray pass it’s magnified, but knowing him as a big enough character, that won’t affect him. I’m sure he’s not too bothered by it."

There is a slight chance that the pair could lock horns tomorrow night at Kenilworth Road during the two club's third round Carabao Cup tie, depending on what kind of side United boss Ole Gunnar Solksjaer sends out.

When asked whether having the knowledge of Pogba's game would help him, Tunnicliffe added: “I don’t know if it’s an advantage.

"I’ve studied up on players that I’ve come up against, so I’ve seen him in training, but he can probably say the same thing about me.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I’m not the player I was when I was 17 and I don’t think he is.

"He’s obviously improved a lot and got bigger, stronger, so I have an idea of the things he can do, but it’s up to me to stop it and see if I can stop it.”