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Not to have played much in that Man Utd team is nothing to be ashamed of - Cruyff

11:59 BST 28/08/2019
Jordi Cruyff Manchester United
The son of Barcelona and Ajax legend Johan Cruyff has been looking back on his time at Old Trafford

Jordi Cruyff believes he joined Manchester United a year too early but insists not playing regularly was nothing to be ashamed of when fighting Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham for a place in the starting line-up.

The former midfielder and son of football legend Johan Cruyff moved to Old Trafford from Barcelona in 1996.

Aged just 22 when he signed, his three seasons in Manchester were curtailed by injury and, despite the club lifting three Premier League titles during his spell, he only played enough minutes to earn one winners' medal.

The Dutchman admits his switch to England - with a new league and new culture - probably came too soon.

"When you take a step like going to Manchester United you need to be mature enough, and I was probably one year short of that," he told BBC Sport.

"You have to adapt. It was different, to have dinner at 5pm or 6pm - I'd never seen that.

"I was probably the youngest person in the village where I lived and that was tough. Now it's a different city, a different vibe - the city is alive."

He also struggled for fitness at United which further hampered his chances of nailing down a place in Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

"I fell from one injury to another and I could never really get a run and show the manager he could count on me. When Ryan Giggs was injured, I was always injured - and that's my fault. As a coach, you want players who are ready when you need them. I see that now myself.

"Training-wise, I was always on the level that was necessary, but I didn't play a lot and I probably didn't bring what I could do in training to the games."

However, despite struggling to make the grade, Cruyff is not too hard on himself when he considers the star quality of the players he was up against when battling for a first-team spot.

"If you know you're going to play 30 minutes every three weeks you make a decision - do I want to stand out by scoring a goal? You can see that in a few games - there was a time when I was just trying to score goals, and others when I was trying to participate in the game and enjoy it.

"But with the injuries, I could never catch that train and have a stable season. When I look back at that team - Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Eric Cantona, and then the likes of Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Andrew Cole - not to have played much is nothing to be ashamed of."

Now 45, he is managing in the Chinese Super League with Chongqing Dangdai Lifan. After United, he played for Alaves and Espanyol following a loan spell with Celta Vigo. He spent two years in Ukraine with Metalurh Donetsk before a season with Valletta in Malta where he scored 10 goals in 17 league appearances.