What?! Mate, we’ve just lost the derby, it’s international week and the country’s on the verge of imploding over Brexit – again – and Republik of Mancunia are listing haircuts, there’s only so much I can take. Well before you reach for the delete button, or your revolver allow me to elucidate why such a topic isn’t the mullet it may at first seem. It’s all getting a bit serious both on and off the pitch so why not a bit of nonsense to distract us from the fact that in few years’ time we’ll be watching United in a super league we won’t even be able to visit.
Here’s five haircuts that contributed to making United the biggest club on the planet.*
5. Karel Poborksy.
Euro ’96 has a lot to answer for in my humble, yet naturally expert, analytical, venerable opinion. Not only did it give birth to a song which by rights should have been dragged off to the woods and strangled at least 20 years ago, it also fed the myth that England fans are among the best in the world and a record of PL 5 W3 D1 L1 on home soil is some sort of monumental achievement that should be celebrated bienially. Something far worse than Skinner and Baddiel’s ‘Live Aid-esque’ let’s dine out on this for 20 odd years anthem, was the fact that thanks to a really good goal, not to mention the Czech Republic getting to the final – something beyond the hosts- Sir Alex Ferguson went out and spent money on Karel Poborsky.
To be fair to Poborsky, his time at United wasn’t quite the disaster some would make out, he was just a tad unfortunate that with David Beckham preferred on the right wing, there was scant opportunity for him to play anything more than a bit-part and two years after signing he was off to Benfica, albeit with a Premier League title winner’s medal in his pocket. What the tricky winger will mainly be remembered for though was a barnet that’s never really been seen at Old Trafford since, it was something along the lines of ‘hippy, cba going to the barbers/been sleeping in a skip for the past six months/shoelace round my head’ chic. Much like Poborsky at United, it never really caught on.
4. David Beckham.
Where to start with his royal Becksness? The posh boy goes urban cornrows? The brylcreem peddling glory years? The nadir of the foray into alice band territory? For this writer when it comes to Beck’s barnet, then somewhat surprisingly it has to be the -almost- skin head. A hairdo that would normally have been associated with racists thugs, or people who were recovering from a serious illness suddenly became the coolest look on the planet and for those of us who’d were facing the abyss of permanent baldness, seeing the world’s most iconic player embracing his inner bald, was manna from heaven.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo.
Before he was CR7, or the biggest star on the planet, before he made winning Ballon D’ors almost run-of-the-mill and did the same with lifting the Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo was something of an unknown quantity amongst United fans – and so was his hairdo. It was almost much like the winger/striker/false 9 in later years, Ronaldo’s hair couldn’t quite make up it’s mind what it was when he arrived at Old Trafford looking like a somewhat starstruck teenager. It had the blonde highlights, the bouffant lift, the dangly bit which looked liked they belonged somewhere else and sometimes made a cameo in front of his face like errant schoolchildren jibbing over the turnstile.
The reason Ronaldo’s original United hairdo makes this list is because it automatically takes us back to that sunny August afternoon in 2003 when the skinny eighteen year old took to the field against Sam Allardyce’s physically imposing Bolton Wanderers side, with roughly half an hour on the clock, Ronaldo, replaced Nicky Butt and produced a performance so skilfully dazzling, there’s no doubt Ricardo Gardner still has nightmares about it. Gardner was the man tasked with stopping Ronaldo, but it was futile and despite several of his team mates trying to help out – not to mention some questionable ‘tackling’, the former Sporting Lisbon winger wasn’t to be denied and it was all thanks to his haircut, possibly.
2. Marouane Fellaini.
As afros go, we’ve seen some belters at the Theatre of Dreams, there was the original, Remi Moses which made one of United’s most ferocious ever players look all the most menacing, there was Captain Marvel’s attempt at a blonde one when he signed for the Reds’ on the pitch sparking one the greatest career’s United have ever seen and more recently there’s been the valiant effort of Tahith Chong too. For most Reds, especially the younger generation, such as my kids, there’s only one United Afro and that’s the one belonging to Marouane Fellaini.
Fellaini’s recent haircut, where he finally dispensed with the barnet that’s synonymous with elbows, naff celebrations and looks of bemusement to card waving referees, made headline news around the world, probably. And ended one of the greatest haircut eras the Reds have ever seen.
1. Paul Pogba (vs City away, April 2018).
How can you have a United list of haircuts not featuring the most talked about haircut on the planet? The simple answer is – you can’t. Pogba’s hairdo has been debated more times than leaving the EU (that’s my second and final Brexit reference, I promise) and seems to send grown men into childlike tantrums that belong in a sandpit not a studio. Yet it was his blue highlights that caused the most outrage when United travelled to the Etihad last season facing the very real prospect of seeing our derby rivals lift the Premier League trophy in front of us, thankfully they didn’t and what made the Reds’ comeback all the more sweeter, was the fact Pogba scored from his blue hair. There’s some form of poetry there, I just don’t know what it is.
*Disclaimer: said haircuts may not have contributed at all to making United bigger in any way shape or form, but they did at least give many of us a giggle.