It was truly beautiful. Once Juan Mata had set Ander Herrera up for United’s third goal on Saturday, he celebrated with the Stretford End, meaning he was separated from the group of players surrounding his friend. Ander, spotting Juan across a crowded box, broke away from the pack and jogged over to his mate, before lifting him off the ground in an embrace.
This in the game before which Mata had replied to an interviewer’s question about his best friend at the club by answering “David Herrera!”. United’s current squad is rich in bromance.
But what are the best ever buddy-duos (or trios) at Old Trafford? Who have had the most heartwarming bonds? Let’s take a look, as we celebrate the beauty of footballing friendships, in this month’s top five.
Giggsy and Incey
That celebration! Much copied in playgrounds up and down the land, the Giggs and Ince celebration was a symbol of their beautiful friendship. Ince was presumably something of a role model to Giggs, who was somehow able to look past his friend’s woeful taste in nicknames.
In an interview for this very website, when asked about his friends in football, Giggs said “Paul Ince I was great friends with because he helped me in the transition of coming from youth team to first team, he helped me in that respect and we just clicked.”
Paul’s son Tom Ince shared his memories of Giggs, saying “‘Ryan has been in my life since I was a kid and I remember when he lived with us.”
Giggs was part of the family for Ince, and the fact that he played with Paul and against Tom is yet another illustration of why Fergie called him a “unique freak.”
D-Beck and G-Nev
Gary Neville was David Beckham’s best man, and that came as little surprise to anyone who had been paying attention. The Class of ’92 shows pretty clearly that all of its members were mates, but G-Nev and Becks had something special. When Gary went to do his lap of honour after his testimonial, he tried to get David to come with him, to share yet another moment with his more glamorous friend. Becks wouldn’t, though, recognising that this was one occasion on which Gary deserved the spotlight.
From the outside, they seemed so different, Gary, the trade union leader who had missed his calling, David the movie star who had missed his. In truth, of course, they had both found their calling as Manchester United’s right-hand side. Sharing a flank, and their lives, with each other, this was a bromance for the ages.
Patrice Evra, Ji Sung Park and Carlos Tevez.
This one is unspeakably delightful. Patrice Evra, international sophisticate of some reknown, learned Korean so he could communicate better with his pal Ji. Tevez somehow managed not to be a third wheel, and the three of them had some fabulous adventures, like these wonderful birthday cake scenes.
When Tevez left to join City, Patrice forgave him, and the two of them are reunited in Italy, something which Evra was very pleased about.
Patrice and Ji continue to be best buds, with the Frenchman getting a chance to practice his Korean at Park’s recent, peculiarly bunny-rabbit-featuring nuptials.
Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole
Andy Cole had never exactly seemed the warmest character on the pitch. He generally seemed a fairly dour, serious fellow, interested in the business of goal scoring, rather than expressing deep abiding joie-de-vivre. Yorke, by contrast, had perhaps a little too much joie-de-vivre. Gary Neville said recently that he lived his life vicariously through Dwight Yorke’s phone.
Yorke’s arrival, which might have threatened Cole’s position in United’s starting XI, ended up cheering Coley up no end. They clearly got on brilliantly, and their friendship translated into beautiful interplay on the pitch. Peak Yorke and Cole happened against Barcelona, their “you score, no you score, no you score” series of 1-2s leading to a highly memorable moment.
There are many reasons 1999 was ace, and Yorke and Cole’s friendship was a delightful sub-plot.
Ander, David and Juan
This might be just because it’s happening now, so it’s fresh, or it might be because it’s happening in the age of social media so we see more of it, but Ander, David and Juan are number one on this list, as they are in my heart.
Another three-way friendship, although this time without the language barriers.
There aren’t many things to thank David Moyes for, but he deserves credit for assembling the three amigos. When Juan turned up in his helicopter, cameras were treated to a momentary snapshot of De Gea waiting like a puppy waiting for his owner to get home, so excited was he to see his old friend arrive.
Ander’s arrival had the potential to throw a spanner into the works. Would David be okay with sharing Juan’s affections? It seems to be working out. Juan and Ander get to share their affections on the pitch more visibly, but the “David Herrera” answer was classic Mata diplomacy. Would you expect anything else from a man as cultured as Juan?
All in all, it was pretty genius of Moyes to try and sign all David’s best mates to keep him at the club.