Former Manchester United midfielder Angel Gomes has opened up on his summer move away from the Reds to Ligue 1 side Lille and has revealed that Bruno Fernandes played a crucial role in the youngster settling into his new home.
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Gomes, 20, joined United’s youth academy in 2006 and went on to feature in 66 matches in all competitions for the Reds’ youth sides before making his senior first-team debut in May 2017.
Despite being hotly tipped to develop into one of the club’s best attackers, Gomes struggled to get first-team game time under his belt and ended up making just 10 senior appearances before turning down a new contract in the summer.
After rejecting the chance to commit his long-term future to United, Gomes later moved on to French side Lille.
Since joining Lille, Gomes was quickly loaned out to Portuguese side Boavista in an attempt to continue his development.
Having kicked his loan spell with Boavista off with a bang after already being directly involved in seven goals from just five appearances, Gomes looks to have reignited his career.
Speaking exclusively to Independent recently, the 20-year-old has opened on his decision to depart Old Trafford, he said: “I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t quite understand how emotional it would be.
“Saying goodbye to the friends I’ve known since the very start; all the staff; the security at the gate. I love everyone there and it was all I’d ever known. I don’t think it had quite sunk in, leaving everything behind.
“Football is like a rollercoaster and I went through a lot of highs.
“I had the right people around me and I stayed grounded, but when you hit a few lows it starts to build up on you. It can be hard to show your emotions and you’ve got to just keep giving your all in training [even though you’re not playing].
“But when you go home, deep down you know you’re not quite the same as normal. I’m usually very bubbly and your family notice those little changes in you. I wanted to get back to where I was and find happiness in my football.”
Gomes went on to reveal how important Lille’s sporting director Luis Campos was in his decision to join the Ligue 1 club, he said: “We spoke for a couple of hours, he knew me inside-out as a player, and he showed me his plan. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
“In the first year, he wanted me to go to Boavista, it’d be a clean slate and I spoke to the manager there and loved his ideas. I didn’t see it as a step back, I saw it as my chance to kick on. I didn’t want to go somewhere and have that label of being a youngster. I wanted to play 90 minutes, have an important role, and show what I can do.”
Gomes also revealed how former team-mate Bruno Fernandes helped him settle in off the pitch in Portugal after the 20-year-old confirmed that Fernandes helped arrange “apartments to visit, getting a car, and where to go for food.”
“It’s actually quite refreshing,” Gomes said. “A year ago, I would never have thought I’d be in this position, but I’m really enjoying it. The manager just wants me to always be on the ball and involved in the game and that’s perfect for me. I’m ambitious and I’m excited about what’s ahead, to carry on like how I’ve started, and go back to Lille full of confidence.”
“Sometimes I wonder if people think I’m looking at other players like they’re giants.
“There were times when, because of my height, it felt like people would expect me to do twice as much in a game to justify it, but that’s just part and parcel of football. I’ve always been small but it never gave me an issue when I was younger, it was just something that seemed to get mentioned a lot. It didn’t affect me because you play football with your feet and your brain, that’s what I love to do.
“There are dozens of players my height who’ve done incredible things so it’s not something I think about, I just play.
“There were a lot of difficult times growing up.
“My mum was working two or three jobs just to try and make ends meet. My brother was playing for United while helping my mum and taking me to training.
“There’d be times when we had to go to my auntie or her friends’ houses just to eat.
“It was difficult, but it was always enjoyable, we had so much fun just playing football every day. That’s always been the reason why I’ve played; to be able to do it with a smile on my face. But I’ve got it back now. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”