On meeting his old side in the UEFA Champions League
It’s odd but [before the group stage draw] I said to my brother: “Can you imagine if we end up in the same group as Juventus?” It was a great period of my career.
There’s a lot of emotion involved because I had my first [full] season in the [senior] professional game and scored my first goal at Juve. It’s there that I developed as a player and so I have huge respect for the club. There will be a lot of emotion when I go back. I also see it as being my stadium – I know I’m at home when I’m at Old Trafford but I also feel very much at home when I return to Juve. However, we’re still coming to play a Champions League game, not to visit the stadium. It will be a tough and a very emotional game, especially for me.
Have I stayed in contact with many Juventus team-mates? Yes, I have, absolutely. First of all, you have a French guy there, Blaise [Matuidi]. I also still speak to [Juan] Cuadrado, [Paulo] Dybala. I sometimes get an update from [Leonardo] Bonucci too. We speak on a very regular basis as we had a really good group – we felt like a family. Since leaving Juventus, I’ve only returned once to see the players. But to go back and play there will be a very good moment and I think the feeling will be mutual.
On why he chose to rejoin Manchester United in 2016
I felt like I was missing something. I wanted to be in the starting [XI] of [Manchester United], wear this jersey and be part of the team. It was not revenge, I wanted to return with more experience. I was much younger [when I left in 2012 after a single senior season and three Premier League appearances]; I learned about a different kind of football when I left and gained experience. I played in the Champions League as well. I came back with more maturity, I would say.
Of course, I’ve come back home. I joined the youth academy here. I’m at home here and it will always be that way. I grew up with my team-mates and we’ve all been reunited again in the first team, so it’s a beautiful story.
On working with UEFA’s #Equal Game campaign
We try to be role models for everyone. We also have to send out the message that everyone can do a sport like football. It makes people happy. When [France] became world champions, we were all together. Every race came together, we hugged and kissed each other; it was wonderful, and that’s what football can give to people all around the world.
Sport can bring people together and that’s the purpose of this campaign, to make people aware that football is for everyone, not for a single skin colour. If you look at the Manchester [United] squad, we’ve got Belgians, Italians, Brazilians and we’re all in it together. We’re learning about cultures and we discover things. We all lead the same lives, but it’s just that we’re from different countries.
We all respect each other and what’s needed is respect and acceptance of others. That’s the key to life. You can’t allow yourself to get hung up about things like discrimination, race and things like that. When we live together, we live better.