ManUtd.com was first to speak to Eric Djemba-Djemba after he completed his £3.5m move to Manchester United. After the firmest of firm handshakes, the tough-tackling midfielder sat down with ManUtd.com for his first interview as a Manchester United player…
Having supported the club as a boy, how does it feel to be able to say you are a Manchester United player?
I am really pleased because it’s something I can say has come about through hard work, I have put a lot of effort into my career so far. It’s nice because it’s not something that has happened by chance. I am very proud because my hard work has led to where I am today.
You’ve played at Old Trafford before with Nantes, but how will it feel to pull on a United shirt and run out in front of 67,000 fans?
It’s a tough question because I have good impressions of the club so far and everyone has been nice to me when I have come here to sign. It’s going to be a day of emotion, but until I actually pull the shirt on and get out there I’m not sure how it is going to be. I’m sure it will be fine, but we’ll have to wait and see on the day itself.
United have a lot of good midfielders in the squad, how do you hope to fit into the side?
I’ve said a couple of times that I am a young player and there are people who are already established here, players older than me who have their places in the team. But one thing that makes good players better is competition and fighting for places. I am here to learn and here to get better as a player. Hopefully if I do get the chance I will grab it with both hands.
For United fans who perhaps haven’t seen you play, what can they expect from you as a player?
I’m a Makelele-type player, but more physical. He was on the Nantes scheme before me – Makelele was halfway through the system when I got there – and I would say I’m a similar sort of player.
Do you think it will take time for you to get used to English football, or do you believe your style is suited to the Premiership?
I think my style of play is ideally suited to the Premiership because I am quite physical. That’s one of the reasons I got quite a few yellow cards last season [smiles]. But in the English game I think a lot of those would have gone unnoticed. It’s much easier to get booked in France because they don’t get stuck in like players do in England.
Have you met the manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and if so, what were your first impressions?
We met for the first time yesterday [Wednesday] and I was really impressed by him. We had a meeting and a good chat. He’s a very approachable person, very down-to-earth and we talked just like we are doing here. He explained that he’d first seen me play for Nantes against Manchester United in the Champions League last year, and said that he noticed a lot of potential in me and that he wants to bring out that potential. He also said that Manchester United never make a mistake when signing a player. He wants me to make steady progress and expects me to have a good grounding here.
Do you have any expectations or targets you hope to achieve here at Manchester United?
My first immediate goal is to play as many games as I can. I’m not setting my sights too high, but I want to get some games under my belt. Who knows, the manager might decide that he needs me to come in for more games. But I just want to establish myself and impose my style of play where I can and then we will see what happens from there. One of my main aims is to make sure the title comes back to Manchester again next season.
Do you have a message for Manchester United’s fans?
Having encountered the fans when I came here with Nantes, I know they are a fantastic set of supporters. They really got behind the team even when things weren’t going well for them. The fans may not have heard of me, a lot of them might not have seen me play before, but the one thing I will promise is that I will sweat blood for the club. I will really try my hardest to perform for Manchester United.
Interview by Ben Hibbs