How Maiorana fizzed and crashed
With the likes of Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett being given a chance in the Manchester United first team in recent weeks, we take a look at the story of Giuliano Maiorana, one of the original ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ whose rapid rise from Non-League football to the Manchester United first team is likely never to be repeated.
When Giuliano first heard United were looking at him, he thought it was a joke; he was playing for Histon part time and had already been turned down by Cambridge United, Brentford and Norwich City.
He was given a trial but wasn’t very hopeful. “When I found out United were looking at me, I honestly thought it was a wind up considering I was 19 at the time and that Cambridge United had told me on a few occasions I wasn’t good enough for them,” he said. “I thought my one week trial at Manchester United would come to nothing.”
In only the second day of his trial, Giuliano was picked in the squad to play in a testimonial match for Birmingham City’s Ian Handyside and performed so well he was offered a four-year contract after being substituted at half time. “Being picked to play in the testimonial was a big surprise to me,” he said. “It was a Tuesday night and before the game I got told I was in the starting line-up which shocked me even more because it was with the first team squad.
“Playing in front of 10,000 people was nerve racking but I didn’t do too bad, I got a penalty and at half-time they brought me off and offered me a four year contract. It took me only around six weeks to break into the first team. My scout Ray Medwell told me what I had achieved would not happen again, because at the time Histon were five leagues below the old Fourth Division.”
The transfer fee United paid Histon saved them from going out of business and Maiorana made his debut on 14th January 1989, coming on as a substitute in a league match against Millwall at Old Trafford. He remembers feeling slightly overwhelmed by the situation. He said: “When I came on as sub I remember running down the wing and because I was breathing heavy, my ears kept blocking and unblocking. All I could hear fading in and out of my ears was United, United, United!
“As this happened I looked around the stadium and suddenly it dawned on me the magnitude of the situation I was in. There were around 45,000 people at the game and only six weeks before I was playing in front of 50-60 people. I was used to watching professional games but all of a sudden I was thrust into a game, which the supporters were watching, that I was playing in. It was ridiculous and aweinspiring.”
The skilful left winger rose to prominence in his first start for the club with an exciting performance in a televised 1-1 draw against Arsenal, who finished the season as league champions. It looked like the start of a long and promising career and he was seen as a star of the future at Old Trafford.
Then a cruel twist of fate intervened. While playing in a reserve game in 1991 Giuliano suffered a serious knee injury after a tackle from Aston Villa’s Dwight Yorke. He was unable to fully recover. He never played for the first team again, eventually leaving the club in 1994 and, after a brief spell playing in Sweden, he retired at the age of 24.
In total Giuliano made eight appearances for United. “Obviously playing for the first team was a dream, but the flip side was getting injured when I was 21 and having to retire at 24,” he said. “A journalist once asked me after reading in a paper about the skill I had, if it made me feel proud.
“I responded that I was very lucky to have been blessed with the skill I did have, but it would’ve made my life a hell of a lot easier if I didn’t have it and United would’ve released me because I wasn’t good enough. Then at least I could’ve got on with my life thinking that I had given it a go and wasn’t good enough. Instead I’ve got a question mark over my career, that unfortunately for me I will never be able to answer.”
Now 45, Giuliano works for his family’s upholstery business.
“I only play five-a-side now against friends, nothing serious just for enjoyment,” he said. “I also help coach my son’s team. I get a lot of pleasure doing it.
“I may not be rich, but I’m happy and rich with life, so I can’t complain.”
Sir Alex, Maiorana and Bryan Robson