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Benatia: Focus on religion the reason for rejecting Man Utd

22:53 GMT 06/02/2019
Mehdi Benatia Al Duhail
The defender says his desire to move his family to a Muslim country was the reason behind his transfer to Qatar

Mehdi Benatia says he has faced criticism over his decision to snub Manchester United to sign for Al Duhail, but the Moroccan defender says he did so in order to raise his family in a Muslim country.

In need of a new central defender, Manchester United pegged Benatia as one of several winter targets, but ultimately fell short as the Juventus defender turned down an offer to move to England.

Instead, the 31-year-old central defender opted to move to Qatar to join Al Duhail, and made his debut for the club in a 1-0 loss to Al Gharafa on Thursday.

Benatia, who has also featured for Roma and Bayern Munich, says he understands the criticism of his move away from Europe, but hopes that critics and his national team coaches can understand the logic behind his move.

"I faced criticism from the Moroccan sports critics after moving to Doha but I want everyone to respect my decision because it was the best for me and for my family,” Benatia told Al Duhail's website.

“I want my kids to grow up in an Islamic atmosphere, and I could go to clubs in the UAE or Saudi Arabia but I preferred to be with Al Duhail, and there are a lot of Moroccan players who play in the national team and are with the Gulf clubs.

“[Morocco] coach Herve Renard knows me well and if he sees that I do not deserve to be with the national team, I will respect this decision."

Benatia has made 55 appearances for Morocco and captained the African country this past summer in Russia at the World Cup.

Manchester United, meanwhile, have thrived under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer even after missing out on Benatia, having won nine of the 10 games under the Norwegian boss thus far.

Next up for the Red Devils is a visit to Fulham on Saturday.