Louis Saha signed for Manchester United halfway through the 2003-04 season after scoring 15 goals in 22 games for Fulham.

He quickly became a fans’ favourite and probably would have spent several more years at the club if not for the amount of injuries he sustained.

In an exclusive interview with The Republik of Mancunia on behalf of 888Sport.com, who are putting betting at the heart of football debate by asking punters to have the #LastWord over their mates by backing their banter with a bet, Saha discusses his time at the club.

The fans think very highly of you at Manchester United. Where did that connection and interest in the club come from?

I would say it came from day one when I was there, not to be adventurous and say I was a fan before. It’s just the way I experienced my career inside the camp. The way the fans embraced me and sometimes challenged me, and the manager, the way he tried to lift me when I was down, and all that. Maybe that treatment would never have happened at other clubs. I’m pretty sure of that. Another Sir Alex Ferguson would have been a very rushed guy saying, “you must be sent home because you are always injured”, but he was always trying to take care of me. That is special. That is where I learned so much not only as a player but as a person. If you give a lot you receive a lot and that’s my thing now. I learned a lot from Manchester United.

You went to Newcastle on loan in 1999. Did playing in the same league as Manchester United inspire you to make the move later in your career?

Oh yes! That was part of it, for sure. I will always have the memory of the Champions League and seeing their spirit straight away. I liked the shape of the team, the style of play, the character of the side more than anything. It was pure. Maybe some other teams don’t give you that because, I don’t know, maybe they’re a little more aggressive. But sometimes you look at something and say: that’s me. For sure I was feeling it, and straight away when you get a call from Sir Alex Ferguson and hear him talking and you say, “yes”. You replicate that. The guy is Manchester United. So that’s your belief. Sometimes you hear a manager and you feel like there’s something wrong. You don’t sign. That was a part of it. That’s advice for any manager. You have to have great communication and on the field, your team need to replicate your mentality.

Even with your injury problems you often seemed to come back very well and didn’t need a lot of time to adapt. Can players who get injured regularly almost learn how to come back quicker?

Yeah but I was at a stage where I was trying to prove things [wrong]. Some people said, “oh, you got injured on purpose”. Even the manager said that at one point and I was upset about that. Really hurt. I was always working really hard on myself outside when I was injured. I was doing a lot of gym and all that so that’s why I was coming back quicker, because I was trying to prove a point every time. I don’t think I deserved it. I really didn’t want to be injured. It was part of my career but I was pleased with the way the fans and the manager backed me and really, really did well.

What is your favourite United goal?

I scored one against Wigan when I was aware I was not playing well and the fans were booing me a little bit and I managed to drag down a ball. A very high ball that was not for me but I managed to control it and finish it on a semi-volley.

Can you think of a favourite goal of another player?

[Solskjaer’s goal against Charlton] was really important because I know Ole was looking for a goal for a long time after he came back from injury, so that was very special for me. I remember one where I gave back a ball from Wazza and Wazza scored it on the volley for a very spectacular goal that one. I really liked it.

Eric Cantona was such an important player for United. Was he influential to you at all as a player growing up in France?

No. He’s French and for sure I admired him for what he did but I was more into George Weah and David Ginola. Cantona was a big figure of course but not especially mine.

This interview was conducted by Greg Johnson. This interview was conducted by Greg Johnson. Louis Saha is an 888sport #LastWord ambassador. Join the debate on Twitter @888sport, share your opinion on Facebook.com/888sportfans and read the best analysis on the betting brand’s dedicated blog. Sign-up now and claim £88 of free bets at 888sport.com.

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