Anthony Elanga has already been educated by footballing greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Now, he is crafting his own path to success after leaving Manchester United.
From Sweden to Manchester and onto Nottingham Forest, he speaks with an adopted Mancunian accent and at the City Ground is beginning to find his footballing voice at a new ‘home’.
Elanga was one of seven first-team stars to depart Old Trafford in the summer in a £15million deal as Erik ten Hag trimmed his squad.
The Malmo-born rising star is mature for his age and has had to make tough choices even when first starting out in football. At 14, he opted to join the red half of Manchester over the blue and just months ago he decided he didn’t want to play a bit-part role anymore.
‘It wasn’t easy to leave United because I had been there for nine years from academy to first team. But at the end of the day I have to think about myself and would I want to stay another year coming in and out from the bench or be a starter at a team on the rise, improving and getting better,’ he exclusively told Mail Sport.
Anthony Elanga joined Nottingham Forest in a £15million deal in the summer from Man United
Elanga came through United’s academy ranks and was eventually handed first-team chances
Elanga scored his first goal for Nottingham Forest in their early season win over Chelsea
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‘For me the option for Forest is perfect. Leaving United was difficult and they are arguably the biggest club in the world but I have to think about what I want and how I see myself in the next few years growing and getting better every day. The perfect decision.’
He’s already made his mark.
‘It was amazing [scoring first goal against Chelsea]. Being able to get the win there, Forest haven’t won there in I think 29 years which is a long time and to get the winner there and my first goal for the club you couldn’t have written it any better,’ he added.
Elanga started only five Premier League matches last season, but United’s recent winger crisis could have been the chance he was waiting for.
But the 21-year-old hasn’t looked back and wondered what could have been.
‘When I make a decision I stick by it. I have not regretted that decision one bit,’ he said.
‘My senior time at United was short, two years of valuable learning, ups and downs and I take that experience and bring it here.
‘I learnt a lot from them and take that experience what they did on and off the pitch and try to bring it here and apply it to my game.
Elanga (left) played with Cristiano Ronaldo during the superstar’s second spell at United
Sweden international Elanga has no regrets over swapping United for Nottingham Forest
‘I have learnt from arguably the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, I have learnt from Bruno Fernandes, Raphael Varane, Casemiro, I can go through the whole team because they are all world class players not just what they do on the pitch but off the pitch as well with their discipline and how they look after themselves.’
The Swede still maintains strong personal relationships with his ex-United team-mates and picked close friend Marcus Rashford as the best player he has ever played with, before naming his old club’s one to watch.
‘I have to say Marcus Rashford is the best I have played with. He has got everything, speed, skill, shot, finishing, the way he played last season was amazing. Off the field he is top, he helped me a lot coming through.
‘Kobbie Mainoo [is the next big academy star]. He is one of my close guys that I still speak to at United and I believe he is next the top one, his talent is unreal.
‘He has got everything and I just hope United can look after him really well and let him flourish. He is a top player.
‘When I played with him in the academy I always thought he had similar attributes to Paul Pogba. They are not the same player but just the way he moves and they can both do everything, defensive, offensive, he has a mixture of everything and is really good on and off the ball.’
Elanga had the fortune of playing with Ibrahimovic in Sweden after they first met during the retired striker’s short stint at United.
‘It was really good working with him, I had the opportunity to see and speak with him when I was at United at a young age and when I met him in Sweden the first thing I said was “do you remember me from the canteen?” Elanga recalled.
The 21-year-old named his goal against Chelsea as the best goal of his career so far
Elanga named Casemiro (left) as one of the players he learned from while at United
Elanga was speaking exclusively to Mail Sport’s Ryan Walker at Forest’s training ground
The winger also plays for Sweden and revealed his first interaction with Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Elanga named Man United youngster Kobbie Mainoo as the club’s next big rising star
‘He was like “yeah I remember” as I told him he used to play with my dad [Joseph]. He was sweet and looked after me really well, gave me good advice and he is someone that all the Swedish players look up to.’
Elanga appears to have soaked up the exposure to star-studded talent and developed a drive to make it to the top of the game.
Now, it’s down to him to make it a success.
Elanga spoke to Mail Sport before Sweden’s Euro 2024 qualifier with Belgium was abandoned after two Swedish supporters were shot dead in a suspected terrorist attack in Brussels.
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