Paul Pogba has opened up about his conversion to Islam in recent years.
The Manchester United midfielder recently made a pilgrimage to Mecca during the holy month of Ramadan and claims becoming a Muslim has made him ‘more peaceful inside’.
Asked what being a Muslim meant to him in The Times’ new Life Times podcast, Pogba said: “It’s everything. That’s what makes me thankful for everything.
“It made me change, realise things in life. I guess, maybe, it makes me more peaceful inside.
“It was a good change in my life because I wasn’t born a Muslim, even if my mum was. I just grew up like that, respect for everyone.
“Islam is not the image that everyone sees – terrorism… What we hear in the media is really something else, it’s something beautiful.
“You get to know it. Anybody can find that he feels connected with Islam.”
The World Cup winner with France also admitted that turning to Islam has helped him be more focused.
Pogba continued: “It came because I have a lot of friends who are Muslim. We always talk.
“I was questioning myself in a lot of things, then I started doing my own research. I prayed once with my friends and I felt something different. I felt really good.
“Since that day I just carried on. You have to pray five times a day, that’s one of the pillars of Islam. It’s something that you do.
“The meaning why you do it – you ask forgiveness and be thankful for everything you have, like my health and everything.
“It’s really a religion that opened my mind and that makes me, maybe, a better person. You think more about the afterlife.
“This life has a test. Like when I’m with you, here. Even if you’re not a Muslim, you are a normal human. You have a human relationship and respect you for who you are, what religion you are, what colour and everything.
“Islam is just this – respect of the humanity and everything.”
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a major rebuilding job on his hands at Old Trafford following a dismal 2018/19 campaign.
The 13-time Premier League champions, who recruited Solskjaer after sacking Jose Mourinho in December, finished sixth and failed to qualify for the Champions League.
“For Ole, I think the first thing he’s got to do is try and build the squad,” Rooney told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme.
“I don’t think bringing one or two players in for over £100million is going to really help with the squad and the players who are there.
“I think he needs to try and look at maybe five or six players who have got potential to be top players but you’re not spending £120, £130million on these players.
“I think you spend £30million, £40million and then try to improve them, which will also give you longevity out of the players and allow you to build a squad around the five or six new players that come in, plus a few of the players who are still there.
“You could bring (Cristiano) Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and (Lionel) Messi in, or Gareth Bale for instance, and it’s going to cost you £300, £350million (for) which you’d get what? Maybe two years out of Ronaldo, a couple of years out of Ramos and then you’ve written that money off.”
United have not won the title since the final season of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign in 2013.
Rooney, who scored a record 253 goals for United and now plays in the MLS for DC United, believes the club’s fans will remain patient during a transitional phase under Solskjaer.
“I just think the club needs to rebuild with younger players. But they need to be good enough and allow the manager to improve them,” he said.
“And I think the Man United fans will understand that they are probably not going to compete for the Premier League next year.
“So let them have that time, let Ole have that time to build a team for the next two or three years who are going to compete, not only at Premier League level, but at Champions League level.”
Daniel James is on the cusp of completing a dream move to Manchester United after the Red Devils agreed an £18 million fee with Swansea City.
When finalised, James will become the first signing of what needs to be a transformative summer for the struggling Old Trafford outfit, who endured a nightmare 2018/19 campaign.
It’s abundantly clear a flurry of signings are needed, while a clear-out of dead wood is also required. But, more than anything, a change in tact in terms of transfer strategy and a refocus on club traditions are vital as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to return the sleeping giants to relevance next term.
The exciting 21-year-old will become the 45th Welshman to pull on the famous red jersey. And, as you can see from our list of previous Dragons to represent the club, plenty have scorched a path to success at Old Trafford.
United legend, enough said. If James can make a fraction of the impact his current national team boss did at United, he’ll be thrilled. The honour of most appearances by any United player ever goes to Giggs, who fittingly broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s record when appearing as a substitute as United beat Chelsea on penalties to win their third European Cup in the Moscow drizzle in May, 2008.
Giggs’ 963 club appearances is now 205 more than Charlton and will take some beating, as will his phenomenal haul of trophies. Of the club’s 20 top-flight domestic league titles, Giggs has lifted 13, as well as four FA Cups, three League Cups and two Champions League crowns – he won a total of 34 overall team awards during a glittering 24-year one-club career, making him one of the most decorated footballers in history.
He bagged 168 goals for the club at a strike rate of 0.17 goals per game and holds a slew of personal records, including being the player with the most assists in Premier League history (271). He netted 12 goals in 66 Wales caps.
The ninth highest scorer in United’s history, Hughes scored only five less than Giggs during two glorious spells at Old Trafford. He popped off for a two-season stint with behemoths Barcelona and Bayern Munich before returning to United in 1988, becoming an integral part of the early dominance under Sir Alex Ferguson during the 90s.
A tenacious striker with a tremendous work ethic as well as a knack for scoring stupendous and important goals, the Wrexham-born wrecking ball found the net 163 times during 467 outings.
In his first season back Hughes won the PFA Player of the Year, the first United player to earn the accolade. He went on to score both goals in the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup final against Barcelona in Rotterdam, a result that sparked the Ferguson era into life.
He scored in the 1994 FA Cup final – a third title, and also won two league titles as well as one League Cup.
A scorer of 16 goals in 72 Wales caps, Hughes was one of three high-profile players to depart Old Trafford in the summer of 1995 – alongside Andrei Kanchelskis and Paul Ince – leaving for Chelsea as Ferguson ushered in the Class of 92.
Nowhere near as famous or flamboyant as his two more illustrious compatriots, but Giggs, Hughes, Billy Meredith and Ray Bennion are the only four Welshmen to play more games for the Red Devils than Blackmore’s 245.
The tough-tackling attacking full-back was ahead of his time in terms of what is required of the modern full-back. His forays forward down the left flank were a feature of his decade-long stint at the club from 1984-94 and he was renowned for his fierce long-range striking ability as well being an adept set-piece taker, comfortable on either foot.
He scored 26 goals in his Reds career – a ratio of a goal roughly around every nine games. Not too shabby. He was part of the side that ended a 26-year top-flight title drought as United won the inaugural Premier League crown in 1992/93, and also won one FA Cup and the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Left United at 30 but continued to play lower league football until retiring, aged 46, in 2010.
United’s third highest appearance making Welshman, running out a total of 335 times in the red of the Red Devils. Chirk-born Meredith was considered one of the early superstars of football and enjoyed a decorated career.
A livewire forward known for his dribbling, passing, crossing and shooting, Meredith notched 36 goals for United.
He was part of United’s maiden English top-flight title-winning squad in 1907/08, while he helped the club lift the first of 12 FA Cups the following year.
He had two stints at rivals Manchester City at the beginning and end of his career, also captaining the side from the blue half of Manchester to their 1904 FA Cup win (City’s first major trophy).
He moved to United in 1907 following a ban for bribery and spent 15 years at Old Trafford though he missed four seasons due to World War I.
He returned to City in 1921, aged 47, making him the oldest ever player for City, United and Wales – for whom he won 48 caps.
He helped to set up the Players’ Union, which was a fore-runner of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Perhaps known as much for an 18-month stint in prison during the early 1990’s for his part in a counterfeit currency scam, Thomas was a tricky, jet-heeled winger when he was snapped up by United from Wrexham in the summer of 1978.
He shone brightly but all too briefly in the spotlight, scoring 15 goals in 110 appearances over three seasons at United, with whom he was a 1979 FA Cup runner-up.
But the shy boy from the small north Wales village of Mochdre struggled to cope with his new-found fame and left for Everton in 1981. He also featured for Chelsea and Brighton before returning to boyhood club Wrexham in 1991, where, aged 37, he famously scored a stunning free-kick in a shock January 1992 2-1 FA Cup defeat of Arsenal – one of the competition’s most famous ever results.
Another man who made his name at Wales’ third-most famous club, forward Bamford remains Wrexham’s all-time top league scorer with 174, as well as most goals in a season (44) and most hat-tricks (16).
He swapped the Red Dragons for the Red Devils in 1934 where he added a respectable 57 goals in 109 appearances in the more famous red shirt. That included a 14-goal haul in 23 games during the 1937/38 campaign as United won the Football League Second Division title. He left for Swansea after four seasons, but the outbreak of World War II halted and ultimately ended his career.