In Liege he became captain at just 19, won Belgium’s player of the season and led the team to Jupiler League glory two seasons running. It was also during his time at Liege that Manchester United first registered an interest in the talents of the Mechelen born maestro. With a similar style of play to Paul Scholes, but with a far more proficient tackling ability and box-to-box mentality, he suited the Manchester United mould immediately.
Arsenal received a testing but not overwhelmingly difficult Champions League draw yesterday. The ties against Borussia Dortmund and Galatasaray will certainly be difficult, but they will hope to get the better of Belgian opponents Anderlecht.
But saying that, the Brussels side are not pushovers.
They have a young and expansive side, and this summer brought in a Belgian international. They snapped up Steven Defour from FC Porto in a deal worth €6 million.
Defour was of course once a Standard Liege player, and a player highly rated across Europe. Indeed Sir Alex Ferguson wanted him at Manchester United. After he suffered a broken foot in 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson sent the Belgium international a personal letter wishing him a speedy recovery:
“Dear Steven, I have just heard about your injury and, in the name of Manchester United, I would like to wish you a full and speedy recovery... Don't worry, everything will work out. You will have to work hard to come back and I am going to follow your performances. I will remain in contact with Standard."
And Defour will pose a serious threat to Arsenal in the Champions League this season, but he holds no illusions - he knows that Anderlecht are the respective minnows in this group. This was certainly a sentiment he made clear in his Tweet yesterday...
Arsenal will need to be wary of the diminutive playmaker, or Galatasaray and Dortmund will end up being the least of their worries.