Fortune: I was playing with my heroes
What did it mean to you to sign for a club as big as Manchester United?
How can I describe it now, it’s beyond a dream, it’s beyond imagination, because it’s Manchester United, the club I watched on TV as a kid. I watched them winning the Uefa Champions League final in 1999. Signing for Manchester United was beyond anything I could have ever dreamt of.
When you signed for United, were you made aware of the club’s incredible history?
I knew about the history before I arrived there. I think when you eventually see the inside of such a great club, it makes you realise how big the club really is.
Can you describe the feeling when you ran out at Old Trafford, United’s famous ground, for the first time in your career?
I think my debut was against Newcastle, and my full f debut was against Brentford in 2000. These are the guys I had on my wall as heroes and now I was playing with the same guys I admired and the club that I had dreamt about. It was crazy, it really is impossible to describe. The adrenalin, the excitement, the happiness and joy, all those amazing feelings, it’s unbelievable.
You already mentioned you had a few United players on your wall when you were growing. Who do you think was the greatest player in United history and why?
I never watched him live, but I have seen DVDs of George Best and the way people speak about him. I have seen documentaries and people are still in awe of his performances— that tells you how great he was. You don’t just get a statue outside Old Trafford if you weren’t that good. I have been very fortunate to play with some amaz- ing players, but the way people speak about George Best and from watching his clips— also considering the time he played, just look at the football pitches they were playing on— it just shows you how good he was, so I have to say George Best.
Do you wish anything could have gone differently during your time at Old Trafford?
I would have liked to win the Champions League, but that didn’t happen. I was fortunate to win the league, but unfortunately I had a few injuries, even though that’s part of the game. Of course I would’ve liked to stay longer, but you have to move on. But yeah, I would’ve loved to win the Champions League during my time at United, we came close a few times.
You were part of one of the most successful spells at club and many great things have been said about Sir Alex
Ferguson – what stood out for you the most about the Scotsman?
His man-management and the respect the players had for him. When we arrived for training, you would see his car there already. He always arrived first and left last. He knew how to speak to each of his players differently. His man-management skills are the best I have seen. And on top of that he knew everything about the game, he knows the game inside out and was a master of his trade.
Is there any game in particular from your United career, where you think ‘wow, this was the greatest game in my United history’?
I think the game that stood out for me is the Tottenham game away fromf home, where we were losing 3-0 at half-time. The manager was amazing that day, and still believed we could go out and win the game. We couldn’t believe how calm he was despite being down 3-0 at half-time. He was so positive and we went out and scored five goals to win the game. These are the games, where you think, ‘ Wow I was a part of that team’ and Ferguson played a major part in our turnaround.
Do you think Jose Mourinho is the right man to lead United back to the glory days of Ferguson?
You have to forget about copying what Sir Alex Ferguson did. Jose Mourinho is a manager with great experience, definitely the right man for the job. They had a great start this season, and I’m not surprised because they had a great pre-season and he’s made some good signings. He is definitely the guy that can bring more trophies to United.
You are living in Manchester, you have experienced the fans and you still work for the club as an ambassador. Why do you think United belongs among the greatest clubs in the world?
The history of the club, what it has achieved. The massive fan base across the world. Everywhere you go, we have tons of excited fans. The reason why people love United is because of the football and the history, the trophies the club has won and that’s why you find them among top five clubs in the world.
RIGHT: Fortune in action during a league match against Charlton Athletic in 2002.