'I lose more duels than I should' - Million Manhoef on size, strength and Stoke City

Tiny but tough Million Manhoef is committed to getting into the kind of physical shape to help him get the better of whopping Championship defenders.

Manhoef was a Dutch junior kickboxing champion – and his dad, Melvin ‘No Mercy’ Manhoef, is a 5ft 8in and 14st 9lb mixed martial arts juggernaut – but he admits he’s been craning his neck in the tunnel since joining Stoke from Vitesse Arnhem in January.

The 22-year-old won’t be intimidated, however. He doesn’t like losing duels and he wants to make sure he is soon winning more than he has done in his first three months in England.

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“Sometimes like in Holland I can win duels easily and I don’t have to put in my full force but here if I do that or I go too easily about it then I can lose some. That’s something in my head I know I have to be sharper at,” said Manhoef, who scored Stoke’s second in a 3-0 win over Plymouth last weekend.

“Everybody here is big and strong. Before we came out I saw the guys lining up for West Brom and I was like… [Manhoef looked up sharply], ‘Ok!’

“I will only get stronger and faster here and get more used to it – but I have to keep it in mind.”

He added: “The first game especially was a realisation that I’m really in a different league, the first bump of contact when I had already been tackled. I knew I had to be more clever and stronger here because everybody is strong and fast.

“It’s getting better but still I think I can improve more and win more duels and stuff. I’m small but I’m quite stocky and strong and lose more duels than I should. There are improvement points for where I’m not satisfied. Overall I think my game has been ok but I think it can get better and better.”

Manhoef embraces the physical side of the game but he knows he has to get the balance right in terms with his gym schedule to be best suited for the Championship rather than MMA.

He said: “I like to be physical. Normally, for example when I was with the under-21s at the national team, I was so much faster and stronger than everybody and it was more easy again. Here I will get even more strong and faster and use my body even better. It will make my game better.

“I get muscle very quickly – you’ve all seen my dad and he’s very, very big. I don’t have to be too big but it’s about the good muscle, being ripped and working on the acceleration and everything in general. Then I can take all the big guys on.”

Melvin Manhoef, mixed martial arts champion, is father of Stoke City winger Million Manhoef.
Melvin Manhoef, mixed martial arts champion, is father of Stoke City winger Million Manhoef. -Credit:Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Manhoef Sr and the rest of the family have been over to watch Stoke and there was pride that Manhoef Jr – who is currently preparing for an away trip to Southampton on Saturday – made the 100th appearance of his career last weekend.

There is disappointment that Vitesse Arnhem, the club he left behind, have been punished for financial difficulties and relegated – but excitement about what lies ahead at Stoke.

He said: “I don’t think it’s every happened before (in Holland), an 18-point deduction. It’s crazy. It’s my club, the one I was at as a youth player and I think it’s very sad. But I know Vitesse and I know they will get back up and show what kind of club it is. One hundred per cent they’ll be fine.

“I’m very excited to keep on going here and get Stoke also back to the level they used to be. That’s why I wanted to come here, it’s a big club, a big name and it should be up there. Let’s see what we can do in the next years.”

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