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Great Britain

Man Utd star Wan-Bissaka still ‘humble’ says childhood pal and rival Senior – but he used to be a ‘flukey striker’

AARON WAN-BISSAKA comes up against a childhood pal on Wednesday who will be hoping to turn Old Trafford into Colchester’s winter wonderland.

Courtney Senior grew up three minutes away from Wan-Bissaka in New Addington, South London.

The pair used to play on the green opposite the council house where the Manchester United star lived as a kid.

Senior and Wan-Bissaka still regularly keep in touch now and met up at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland event in the capital the day after the Manchester derby earlier this month.

Now the Col U star hopes to get one over his old mate with another Carabao Cup Prem shock for his side, following penalty shoot-out wins over Crystal Palace and Tottenham earlier in the competition.

Senior, 22, told SunSport: “We’re in the same friendship group. He’s moved to Manchester now so I don’t see him as much. But when he’s down in London we’ll meet up

“Even though he’s my friend, I’m still inspired by him.

“Even with the money and all that, he’s still the same person. He’s still humble.

“I saw him the day after the Manchester derby because we went to Winter Wonderland for our Christmas do and the Man Utd boys were there.

“It’ll be good to be back on the pitch against him. We were on the same team before but we’re rivals now!”

Wan-Bissaka and Senior played for hugely-productive South London side Junior Elite at Under-8 level, run by current Fulham youth coach Colin Omogbehin.

Junior Elite have had a number of youngsters turn pro and this weekend had at least one graduate involved in matches across England’s top four divisions.

Wan-Bissaka turned out for United against Everton, Djed Spence was on the bench for Middlesbrough at Swansea, Gillingham Brandon Hanlan played the full 90 at Fleetwood and Senior helped Colchester to a 2-2 draw at Scunthorpe.

Perhaps the most natural talent, Emile Smith Rowe, came off the bench for Arsenal against Manchester City.

Wan-Bissaka’s parents used to drop their son at Senior’s flat and the pair would go to matches and training.

The story of how Wan-Bissaka turned from average winger to top-notch right-back after shutting out Wilfried Zaha in Crystal Palace training is well-known.

Yet it turns out the England star was a different player altogether as a kid.

Senior revealed: “Aaron was always good. He was one of those flukey strikers who would always get the last touch at goal. I was probably a bit more tricky than him.

“But we were both two of the best in the area. It was good growing up in that environment because it teaches you certain things.

“As a winger, I feel like it helped me. The physicality, playing in cages and greens, and there’s pressure because the older boys expect you to do well because you’re good, even though you’re younger.

“I felt it helped us in the long run.

Even with the money and all that, he’s still the same person. He’s still humble.

Senior on mate Wan-Bissaka

“It’s very surprising he’s now a right-back. He always used to score a lot of goals and he was quick.”

While Wan-Bissaka joined Palace as a kid, Senior went to West London instead to join Brentford who saw off competition from Chelsea to land his signature.

The winger helped the Bees’ youth side to their first-ever Milk Cup triumph, winning player of the tournament, and was soon in and around the first team.

But a lack of match action saw him quit for Colchester three years ago.

He suffered a major setback when injuring his cruciate ligament in a preseason game against Ipswich.

Senior eventually grabbed his first Col U goal on his debut nine months later - but crocked his hamstring in the act of scoring and was out for another six weeks.

Last term he was injury-free and won young player of the season while this campaign he was the star of the show as Colchester saw off Tottenham on penalties earlier in the Carabao Cup.

Senior reflected: “It’s been a harder route but I feel it’s mentally made me a better person.

“With the injury and being in a lower league, I feel like I had to do certain things and be more focused like eating and doing extra stuff to get back in the team and keep fit.

“I’ve been working on my shooting because I want to improve my end product. On my days off I’ve started doing some swimming. I feel it’s been helping me.”

Spurs were the second Premier League side the League Two outfit have knocked out of the competition, having dumped out Crystal Palace on penalties too.

It gives the United boys - Colchester United, that is - huge confidence they can cause a huge upset at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Ex-Wycombe loanee Senior added: “I missed Aaron against Palace because he had left and now I’m getting him at Man Utd at Old Trafford.

“I normally play on the right but I’ll switch over at times in the game to give him a little bit!

“We’ve got to have a bit of confidence otherwise they’ll just run all over us because they’re a very good team. We’ve got confidence from our good run with Tottenham and Palace.

“We’ll see what we can do. All the boys are up for it, I’m definitely up for it.”

Senior is confident he can join Wan-Bissaka at the top level one day - and has been reassured by the right-back’s wise words.

The wideman added: “I speak to Aaron quite a lot about football and how it is at Man Utd.

“For our friend to go and play for them is crazy.

“But it’s so good to have a friend like that as it shows dreams can come true if you stick to what you’re doing.

“He says, ‘Just wait your time, your time will come, you know you’re a good player, everyone knows you’re a good player’.

“It’s just about when your time comes and taking it. His came and he took it.”

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