Andrew Cole has reflected on Manchester United’s time in Brazil when the club were pressured in to representing England and Europe in the World Club Championships. The competition ended in disappointment for United, after losing to Brazilian side Vasco da Gama.
“Ten years ago, Manchester United were criticised for playing in the tournament because it meant pulling out of the FA Cup,” said Cole. “The players were not too fussed either way. Sure, we loved the FA Cup and wanted to defend the tournament we had won, but escaping the British winter for three weeks on a beach in Rio in January appealed, too, as did playing in the Maracana in front of 80,000 fans. We were the European champions, the treble winners no less, and I was the club’s top scorer. Life was good. We got to our hotel in Rio and were immediately at ease, with days spent training and lounging around the pool. David Beckham took a few players down to the beach to play a local beach soccer side. The United players lost and asked them for a rematch: 11-a-side, on grass, at Old Trafford!”
Cole also revealed how some of the players got themselves in to something the manager wouldn’t have been too happy to hear about.
“Back at the hotel, Nicky Butt, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and I sat by the pool, talking,” he continued. “We’d watched gliders high in the sky above us for two weeks. They were taking off from a nearby cliff and soaring over the nearby Atlantic Ocean. We talked about doing it ourselves. The gaffer would have gone crazy, so nothing was mentioned to him. I realised it was Friday 13th and ducked out with Giggsy, but Keaney and Butty didn’t. An hour later, we heard screams from the sky. We looked up to see them circling above the hotel. They were having the time of their lives and still the manager didn’t have a clue. There’s no way he would have allowed his two central midfielders to do it and he only found out years later.”
Cole was disappointed with United’s performances in Brazil but reckons the trip did us good in reclaiming the title.
“We didn’t do ourselves justice, football-wise, in Rio, but three weeks in the South American sun did us no harm as we returned refreshed to overtake Arsenal and win another Premier League title,” he said. “I got the only goal in the top-of-the-table clash against Leeds United to help us on our way and my 100th United goal too.”
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