Adnan Januzaj has branded the questioning of his attitude while at Manchester United as “stupid” and praised Jose Mourinho despite being offloaded.
The 22-year-old forward burst onto the scene at Old Trafford in 2013 after being given his big break by David Moyes.
He would make 35 appearances and score four goals during his first campaign as a regular within the senior ranks at United, but made just 28 more before being moved through the exits this summer.
It was suggested that the penning of a lucrative five-year deal shortly after his breakthrough led Januzaj to take things easy, with his motivation queried as his form dipped at United and he failed to make an impact during loan spells at Borussia Dortmund and Sunderland.
The Belgium international has, however, hit back at those claims, telling the Daily Mail: “If I only played for a contract, I would have stopped football right away.
“Since I was a little boy, I have loved this game. I started from age four and it's all I wanted.
“Those suggestions are stupid. I had very good stats when I came on. Sir Alex texted me and called during that spell. He told me, ‘Keep working hard, never give up, life goes on, you have quality and never stop working’. I needed that.
“Giggsy was assistant during [Louis] Van Gaal's time. He always talked to me and tried to help. He could see I was not the Adnan everyone knows.”
Having slipped down the pecking order under Van Gaal, Januzaj was loaned out to Sunderland once Mourinho inherited the managerial reins.
The Portuguese then sanctioned a sale to Real Sociedad in July 2017, but Januzaj has no complaints at being moved on and remains determined to fulfil his potential.
He added: “Jose had to make things happen very quickly and make quick decisions.
“I had not been playing for two years. He is a great manager and he has been fair to me because he let me leave to improve somewhere else. That's how the world goes and I look forward.
“I know Sir Alex is always at the end of the phone. The same with Giggsy and David. Those people will always back me. My first job now is to impress here. I'm hoping for a World Cup place. The world does not stop.”
Januzaj has not figured for Belgium since 2014, but he has been a regular for Sociedad over recent weeks and will be hoping to make the most of his opportunities in La Liga.