Luton midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe is hoping to come up against former team-mate Paul Pogba on Tuesday night when Manchester United visit Kenilworth Road in the third round of the Carabao Cup.
Pogba lists Tunnicliffe as one of the players who helped him settle when he originally moved to England in 2009 – with the two going on to form the midfield partnership in United’s FA Youth Cup-winning side two years later.
But, while Pogba went on to enjoy World Cup success with France, a trophy-laden spell at Juventus and a return to United for a then-world record fee, Tunnicliffe’s career took a different path.
The 27-year-old made two League Cup appearances for United – netting his father £10,000 in the process after a bet his son would one day turn out for the Red Devils – before moving on.
He would gain Premier League experience with Fulham, playing twice in the top flight including making his debut against his boyhood club, but now finds himself at Luton.
“I have played alongside him quite a few times a while back but to play against him would be quite fun and I am sure he would say the same,” Tunnicliffe said of the chance to face off against Pogba.
“Everyone can see he is world class. I study players and I have seen him in training but I am not the same player when I was 17 and I don’t think he is the same player as he has got bigger and stronger. I have an idea (how Pogba plays) but it is up to me to stop it.
“To win the World Cup is only something you dream of as a kid so for that to happen to him was amazing but when he first came he was a good lad.
“He was loud but I had been there a while so anything I could do to help him…I knew he would be my midfield partner so we tried to bond and have a relationship off the field and it was nice of him to say that (Tunnicliffe had helped him).
“I think I am a nice guy and if he thinks I helped him, I am happy as he has gone on to do great things so if I can take a slight bit of credit for that, I am happy.”
Jesse Lingard is another player still at Old Trafford who was part of the class of 2011, a side who all worked under then-reserve team boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Norwegian’s first steps into management came with the side that would ultimately lift the Youth Cup just months after his departure to take charge of Molde.
“He was my reserve manager for a year or so before he left so I had a good relationship with him and it will be nice to catch up,” Tunnicliffe said of Solskjaer, who has now been United manager since December 2018.
“I think you could see he was just starting out in his first job but that respect goes a long way and he had the characteristics of Sir Alex Ferguson and you could see he would go on to be a manager – but to be United manager so soon I would not have said that.
“Growing up as a United fan, I had massive respect for him and the goals he scored. It was a bit daunting when I was 15 or 16, listening to him and stuff like that.
“I was nervous being near a legend but if I see him we will have a chat and ask how each other’s families are but it will be down to business. He has always been one of the nice guys in football.”