Always in learning mode, Manvir charged up ahead of AFC Cup, praises ATK Mohun Bagan for Kauko signing

Manvir Singh has gone from strength to strength since joining ATK Mohun Bagan from FC Goa ahead of the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). The forward scored six goals and assisted three to help the Mariners reach the final in what was their debut season in the league. Later, this time in India colours, he scored against Oman to help the Blue Tigers earn a 1-1 draw in Dubai. At present, the 25-year-old is preparing for the AFC Cup challenge in Group D (South Zone). Ahead of the prestigious continental club competition, Manvir spoke to in an exclusive interview and discussed a variety of topics like how his life changed after joining the Kolkata-based club, how good head coach Antonio Lopez Habas is and how he thinks he fared with the Indian team in Doha recently, among others. Here is the interview in full.     

Do you agree that joining ATKMB was the rebirth of your football career? What made you join the Kolkata-based club before the 2020-21 season?

It was a really good season for us and for me, I was really hungry for more game time and when the ATKMB management came to me with the offer, they had a plan for me. They told me how the coach was considering me in his scheme of things and it was not a very difficult decision to make.

It was great to see you as one of the top Indian goalscorers last season. Had you expected that kind of success?

Not at all. I had not imagined that. Honestly, I don’t think on those lines, I just want to give my 100% every time I step on to the field. I am very happy with my goals and I’ll try to help my team even more in the upcoming season but it’s not only the goals or assists that make me happy, I also want to lift trophies with ATKMB.

Is it Antonio Lopez Habas, who changed your way of football? If yes, which areas of your skill were developed or changed by the Spanish head coach?

Yes, our Spanish coach has really helped me, I don’t want to take away anything from all the other coaches I have trained with but Habas sir really believed in me and pushed me every day to bring out the best in me.

Do you think that the presence of Roy Krishna, David Williams and Marcelo Pereira helped improve your performance last season?

Yes of course, they are top-class players, one of the best in the league. It makes my job very easy. Not only in the game but off the field also. There is so much you learn from them. They have been very helpful to me, always encouraging and motivating me and the other players.

What’s your target for the next season? Do you think you should improve your scoring ability with the help of Habas?

Like I said, I want to win trophies, irrespective of which competition we take part in. We want to win. I will give my 100% and help my team in whichever way possible and with coach Habas’ guidance, I am sure we will be able to achieve that.

Take us through your performances in recent matches for India. You had a couple of very good opportunities against Qatar. Were you disappointed not to have scored a single goal in these three matches?

The team played their heart out, it was a good performance. We were reduced to 10 men in the first 45 minutes and it was not easy to hold off the Asian champions. But the team stood tall and played really well. I got a few chances and it would have been great to convert them but like my wins I don’t carry my losses with me. Looking forward to the next game and I have learnt from my mistakes.

What have you learnt from the outings in Dubai and Doha? Was Igor Stimac helpful to you like Habas?

It was difficult for all of us because of the Covid-19 restrictions. It’s not very easy to be in a bio-bubble but credit goes to the AIFF and the AFC that they managed to conduct the games. Yes, coach Stimac and coach Habas have been really helpful and supportive of me, they show a lot of faith in me and I was to give my best and not let them down.

Your views on Finland’s Euro team member Joni Kauko’s signing… How big do you think it is for the club?

Joni Kauko played in Euro cup 2020. You can imagine how big the signing is. It shows the club’s intent. At ATKMB, we want to achieve success only.

Before the next Hero ISL, you have the AFC Cup to contend with. Do you think ATKMB have it in them to go all the way?

Yes, for sure, we are a confident team and we showed that during the last season. We have added some top-quality players to further strengthen the squad and we are really looking forward to our games.

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