Joshua Bohui feels he did not get enough support from Jose Mourinho at Manchester United – but the 21-year-old is absolutely resolute in his belief that he will one day return to Old Trafford and establish himself in the first team.
Bohui has had to watch on as his contemporaries and close friends Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong have all turned out for United since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer succeeded Mourinho in December 2018, inspiring his decision to leave for NAC Breda in Holland’s second tier last summer.
“When Jose was there, there were no opportunities for me, Mason, Angel or Chong, but now Ole’s in charge there’s a different vibe and spirit around the place,” Bohui says.
“It was not that Jose did not treat me well, which some in the media speculated, it was just that there didn’t seem to be a clear pathway for me under him.
“On the training ground, he never spoke to me about what I had to do better and, sometimes, I could not understand what he wanted.
“I also felt that he was not approachable. If I knew I had done well in a training session, he was not there to be supportive – it was the same if I knew I had to improve on something.”
Bohui believes it was the right decision to sack Mourinho, adding: “It was better for the whole club – United have a style of play which he was not bringing, so he had to be replaced.”
Yet despite Mourinho’s exit and the offer of a new contract, Bohui still decided to leave United for pastures new.
“I was playing under-18s and under-23s’ football, but I was at an age where I felt I needed to be playing senior, first-team football,” he says.
“I wanted that step up and that experience of playing first-team football.”
Bohui’s footballing journey began in south London, just as it did for Jadon Sancho, Joe Gomez, Tammy Abraham and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
And he honed his skills by playing football in cages – that is, all-weather sports courts – which dotted the urban sprawl in the south of the capital.
Bohui recalls: “I was playing cage football from the age of eight or nine and everybody was outside playing in them.
“It was always about showcasing your ability, mastering the ball and mastering the one on ones. You learn how to control the ball in tight spaces and it definitely helped me, growing up.”
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The son of a France-raised Ivorian father and a British mother of Jamaican heritage, Bohui came through the Evolution Sports Academy in Brixton and had trials with Brentford and Crystal Palace, signing for the former when he was 13.
He progressed through the Bees’ youth ranks, inking a scholarship deal in 2015 and going on to be a regular for the club’s development squad.
However, after Brentford closed its academy at the end of the 2015-2016 season, Bohui headed north to join United.
“Brentford developed me and got the best out of me, but even when the academy closed I had many options because there had been scouts at our games,” Bohui says.
“I grew up a United fan and (Cristiano) Ronaldo was my big inspiration, so when I was told they were interested in me, I was like, wow.”
— The United View (@The_United_View) August 5, 2016
But while travelling from south to west London to play for Brentford was one thing, moving to Manchester, where he lived in digs, was quite another – and it was something he was not prepared for.
“I was used to seeing my parents and my sisters and brothers every day, so it was very, very difficult,” Bohui says.
“I do not think I was really ready for such a change on a psychological level and I think it affected me at United because a big part of my game was that I had my loved ones close to me and supporting me.”
His parents eventually joined him in Manchester and Bohui settled down, becoming a regular for United’s under-18s and under-23s.
— Joshua Bohui (@joshbohui) September 13, 2017
So impressive were his performances, he joined the United first-team squad for their pre-season tour of America in the summer of 2018, coming off the bench in front of more than 100,000 fans at the Michigan Stadium during a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool.
“It was an incredible experience and I felt like a first-team player,” Bohui says.
“People like Juan Mata, Eric Bailly, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all spoke to me a lot and gave me good advice, which really helped me.”
That was his only appearance during the tour, however, and Mourinho did not use Bohui at all as the 2018-2019 season progressed.
But he didn’t feature under Solskjaer, either, and had to watch on as Greenwood, Gomes and Chong were all given their chance by the Norwegian.
It prompted his decision to leave United last summer and try his luck with NAC.
Bohui adds: “I don’t regret leaving United because I know God has a purpose for me – it is something he has decided he wants for me.
“I do believe I will end up back at United and that I will be part of the starting XI.
“I know I am still on their radar and that they are keeping tabs on me – they haven’t completely forgotten about me.
“Everyone has different pathways and mine has led me to NAC Breda and learning a different style of football.
“I speak to Mason, Angel and Chong and there is no envy on my part at all because they are my friends and if I see my friends doing well it makes me happy.
“I’ll send Mason a cheeky message when he scores a goal, and we all encourage each other.”
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A knee injury has meant Bohui has only appeared sporadically this season, but he is more than happy with life at NAC, who currently sit fifth in the Eerste Divisie as they target a return to Holland’s top flight.
Bohui, who has been capped for England at under-17 level, says: “I wasn’t ready to move to Manchester, but I am older now and much more focused.
“Breda is a small, quiet place and I am really enjoying it.
“The club looks after its players and they have clear goals, including developing youngsters, which is the most important thing for me.
“I am taking it step by step, but I am always setting myself goals.”
By Simon Yaffe