Kenji Gorre talks about growing up under the eyes of Rene Meulensteen and Sir Alex Ferguson – and fighting for a chance at Swansea City.
Kenji Gorre could not have asked for a better start to a career in football.
Father Dean played for Feyenoord and Ajax, as well as in England for the likes of Huddersfield and Barnsley, and has always been on hand to dish out advice.
Gorre Junior was born in Holland but spent time as a kid in Manchester, and trained with both City and United before having to make the choice which club to join at the age of nine.
“When you get to that age you have to pick who you are going to go with,” he says.
“I don’t think it registered with me at the age just how much of a big deal it was. At the time I was a huge United fan, so I chose them.”
A young Gorre worked under fellow Dutchman Rene Meulensteen within United’s youth and reserve set-up.
It was an experience the winger believes helped shape him as a player.
“Looking back, it was quite a surreal experience. I felt I was working with one of the best people in the game and he was showing us some amazing stuff on the pitch,” he adds.
“I was at an age where I just wanted to play football. I could not wait to get into training.
“I was living the dream of most boys in the country. I got to go to every home game as a fan, but I would be training with United the following week.
“At the time it was just a normal part of my life. It is only when you step back that you fully appreciate the experience.”
Coming through the ranks at United’s prestigious academy, Gorre learnt from some of the best players English football has produced in recent years.
“When you are around players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, you learn something new every day,” he says.
“A number of them were very approachable and would always be on hand to give advice. Working with Paul Scholes was great. He was the ultimate professional.
“When he retired he would still come and train with the development squad, so we got to learn from him first hand.
“He was a very big influence on me and all the players in the team at that time. You could see his intensity first hand, he wanted to win everything.
“That’s why Sir Alex asked him to come out of retirement and play on. He could see he still had it in those training sessions.”
Gorre spent just over a decade at United before linking up with Swansea in the summer of 2013.
At the time, he was closing an important chapter in his football career with guidance and encouragement from one of the most influential managers of all time.
“I was sad to say goodbye, but it was the right decision,” he says.
“I had a meeting with Sir Alex about my future there. He always had all the boys’ best interests at heart.
“It was a positive talk but the bottom line was I wasn’t going to get game-time at Manchester United and I needed to move on if I was going to continue to progress.”
Three seasons on from making a brief Swans Premier League debut under Garry Monk against Crystal Palace on the final day of the 2014-15 season, Gorre is still fighting to earn another chance in the top flight.
He has had loan spells with ADO Den Haag and Northampton Town to his CV, but is now back starring in development football.
Gorre has 12 goals this season, but accepts it could be a race against time to gain further opportunities with Swansea.
“Making that appearance for Swansea against Crystal Palace was a dream come true for me,” he smiles.
“I had scored something like 18 goals for the under-21s that season, so it was a reward for all the hard work that had gone in.
“I went on to have loans in Holland and in League One with Northampton Town. Both were huge learning opportunities and I feel I took something from them.
“One of the best moments in my career was scoring the winning penalty for Northampton against West Brom in the League Cup to set up a tie against Manchester United in the next round.
“It gave me an opportunity to play against my old side and against the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingaard, players I had grown up with in academy football.”
New Swans boss Carlos Carvalhal has shown a willingness to use young players when the time is right, and Gorre remains hungry for another opportunity.
“I am getting to an age where I am not a young kid anymore. I need to get game-time and have the chance to prove myself and for a manager to believe in me,” Gorre says.
“I have so much to give and I just want to be given a chance to show that.”