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Timothy Fosu-Mensah On Bayer Leverkusen, Xabi Alonso, Manchester United & Working Under Jose Mourinho

Timothy Fosu-Mensah On Bayer Leverkusen, Xabi Alonso, Manchester United & Working Under Jose Mourinho

An interview with Timothy Fosu-Mensah by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You joined Bayer Leverkusen in 2021. How would you reflect on your time at the club so far? 

“I have mixed emotions in regard to my time at the club so far because when I arrived I was playing regularly and enjoying my football.

“I also felt at home straight away at the club which was important to me. The atmosphere around the club and the quality of players that we have here is impressive.

“I spoke to Leon Bailey — now at Aston Villa — before I came to Leverkusen and he spoke very highly about the club and helped me settle in when I arrived, as did the whole club. Everyone looked after me.

“Unfortunately, after establishing myself in the team in my first season, I suffered a cruciate ligament injury which kept me out of action for ten months.

“The recovery from such an injury is tough and it required a lot of hard work and dedication to come back but the club fully supported me in my recovery which I am thankful for.

“Our sporting director Simon Rolfes, in particular, supported me really well as he knew from his playing experience that my injury was not an easy injury to overcome.

“He made sure that I was as comfortable as possible and he was proactive in looking out for me and ensuring that I was doing well given the circumstances.

“This made my recovery easier and I will always be grateful for the support that I received.

“Upon my recovery, I was in and out of the team due to a few issues with my hamstring which kept me out for around ten weeks.

“Overall, when I have played, I believe that I have played well. Reaching the Champions League with the club last season was a good feeling.

“Going forward, I have more years to come at the club and I hope to contribute as much as I can.”

Who are the big characters in the Bayer dressing room?

“Everyone has their own unique personality but everyone pulls in the same direction which is the desire to bring success to the club.

“We have players at the club who have been here for a long time such as Jonathan Tah, Karim Bellarabi and Lukas Hradecky who are strong characters and help the group as a whole.

“We have a strong squad and I enjoy working with them all. I feel good at the club.”

Xabi Alonso is your current manager at the club. He was a phenomenal footballer, what is he like as a manager? 

“Xabi is a good manager and I am enjoying working with him.

“He played at the highest level of football possible for many years for both club teams and for his country so he knows what it takes to succeed as a player.

“As such, he is very personable in his interactions with players. Tactically, he is also strong and you know what he wants from you as a player.

“He understands what is needed all over the pitch and he helps me in my role as a defender with the instructions and advice that he gives me.”

You started your professional career at Manchester United and broke into the first team under Louis Van Gaal when the club won the FA Cup. What are your memories of your debut season and playing under him? 

“I remember that the week before I made my debut, Louis Van Gaal gave Marcus Rashford his debut in the Europa League.

“He scored two goals on debut and I was so proud of him.

“I was training with the first team at that time at the age of 18 and I was performing well.

“One day after training on the lead up to a game against Arsenal, Louis pulled me aside and told me that I would be in the squad for the game.

“I started the game on the bench but during the first half of the game, Marcos Rojo, was not feeling very well and I was told to be ready as I would be the player replacing him.

“I remember coming onto the pitch at Old Trafford just after halftime in a game that we went on to win 3-2 against Arsenal.

“Then, in that same season, I played in the team that won the FA Cup by featuring in the quarter-final and the semi-final so it was a wonderful way to mark my debut half-season as a professional footballer at Manchester United.

“Winning a trophy such as the FA Cup was special and it was great to be able to play alongside top players and characters such as Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Michael Carrick among others.

“It was extra special for Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick too because they had won every major trophy at Manchester United except the FA Cup before that final, so it was really nice for them to be able to win that trophy.

“As a young player, I learned so much from players like that, as did Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial. We were all younger players within the team and interacting with experienced players like those taught us a lot and we looked up to them.”

You won the Europa League under Josè Mourinho in 2017. What are your memories of that campaign and what was it like to work under Josè Mourinho as a young player?

“This campaign was good for me because I spent the full season with the first team and as a result of that, I completed a full pre-season with them for the first time.

“I was still a teenager when Jose Mourinho arrived and he helped me mature into becoming a man in footballing terms.

“Jose was tough on young players with his demands but in a good way because he wanted you to be ready to represent a club the size of Manchester United.

“He helped make me stronger mentally and physically.

“I remember playing against Northampton Town in the early rounds of the League Cup – which we went on to win at the end of the season – and I did not have my best game.

“He subbed after 60 minutes and we had a Europa League game coming up a week or so after the League Cup game which I did not think I had a chance of playing in after he subbed me off.

“However, he started me in the Europa League game and I played the full game which gave me confidence to continue to grow at the club.

“We went on to win the Europa League against Ajax at the end of the season and that was a great achievement for the club.

“Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed working under Jose Mourinho. He was really good with me as a young player.

“He is open-minded and he is a very good manager as his career has shown.”

You joined Crystal Palace on loan for the 2017/18 season. What are your memories of your time in south London? 

“I joined Palace on loan when Frank de Boer took over as manager at the start of that season.

“He called me and he made it clear that he wanted me which is what I needed to hear as I knew that I had to go and play regularly in the Premier League.

“Unfortunately, Frank left the club after four league games. We did not win any of our first seven games in the Premier League which made the season ahead very tough.

“This was also a learning curve for me as I had arrived from United where we won most of our games.

“However, Roy Hodgson came in as manager after four games and I went on to have a good season. The fans at Crystal Palace are fantastic and always create a wonderful atmosphere at Selhurst Park.

“Roy Hodgson is a big-name manager in England as he has managed the English national team and I learned a lot from him and his assistant Ray Lewington.

“The club itself is a brilliant club and I really appreciate what the club did for me as that was the season that I broke into the full Netherlands team and became an international player.”

You have three caps for the Netherlands. What does representing your country mean to you? 

“It means a lot to me because I came through the youth system at Ajax before moving to Manchester United and I also played in the youth teams of the Netherlands before becoming a full international.

“To reach the first team was a great feeling and it gave me a feeling of great pride.

“I felt honoured to pull on the Netherlands jersey and I hope to do so again in the future.”

Finally, Timothy, what are your ambitions for the years ahead? 

“I have had a few spells out with injury so I want to stay injury free in order to play and perform at the highest level.

“Of course, I want to win more trophies in my career but the most important thing is to be able to enjoy my football and play at the highest level of the game.”


  • comment-avatar
    Antwi 3 months ago

    May almighty God help and give u strength all times and have injury free to focus to achieve more in your football career
    From Osei Ghanian