Barcelona defender Gerard Pique says his four-year spell as a youngster at Manchester United made him into the player he is today.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique says his four-year spell as a youngster at Manchester United made him into the player he is today.

Pique joined the Red Devils from Barcelona’s academy as a 17-year-old in 2004 but would only make 13 appearances for the first team before re-joining Barca four years later.

Despite his lack of competitive action he played and trained with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as being managed by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Pique says that experience at such a young age aided his development and meant he returned to Camp Nou a much better player.

“When I left my friends there to spend four years at Manchester United it was tough,” Pique told the Observer . “At the same time that was a great experience for me.

“I grew up a lot there. I am who I am because of the period I had at Manchester United, even though I didn’t play as much as I wanted to.

“But in my position there were two centre-backs who were among the top three in the world at the time Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. But being at home, and having the career I have had at home, has been a great pleasure and I am very proud of it.”

Pique has gone on to win domestic 28 honours with Barca, including eight La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues, as well as the World Cup and European Championship with Spain.

He retired from international football last year after earning 102 caps for La Roja and accepts he is also entering the final stages of his domestic playing career.

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