Diego Forlan: Manchester United still attractive despite Man City resurgence
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- Manchester United fans love Diego Forlan for his two goals in a 2-1 victory at arch rivals Liverpool back in December 2002.
They still sing about him and in the second part of ESPN FC's sit down with United's cult hero, Forlan says he'll like to return to Anfield one day and sing with the away fans.
What's your views on United at the moment?
Manchester City and Chelsea have become powers since I left. They have money to buy the best players, which they didn't have when I played. So that has made a big difference.
United are still a hugely attractive club, but they're not as dominant in the transfer market as they were. They're not in the Champions League either.
I still watch every United game on television. It has been difficult in the last few years, but I enjoyed my time in England and still have a great affection for United. They're the biggest club in the world.
You were popular among teammates in Manchester -- and with fans too. Tell us a funny story about your time at United
We were on a preseason in Portland, Oregon, in the 2003. There was a tennis court on the site, the place for Nike elite athletes.
David Gill, the former United chairman, was playing tennis against another United director. I asked him for the racquets when they'd finished and Ruud van Nistelrooy asked to play me. He used to play a little bit of tennis.
All the team started to gather to watch us; they'd just finished training. Sir Alex Ferguson also came to watch. I don't think all of them knew that I used to play tennis at a good level as a junior.
As an adult, I used to play with Marat Safin and Juan Carlos Ferrero, who were both world No.1 in their career. They could easily beat me, but I was good enough to hit the balls back properly to them as they warmed up.
So it was me against Ruud, who didn't know that I wasn't a beginner. He was surprised when I started serving. Everyone was watching on the side and shouting. Roy Keane, Seba Veron, the gaffer. Suddenly there was an atmosphere. Ruud was really determined and the game was close. I felt the pressure to win because I'd played at a good level. I was not the underdog -- I was not Uruguay any more! I won in the end and that was expected, so nobody really said anything.
Sir Alex Ferguson tells a slightly different story in one of his books. He says that he knew I played tennis well and nobody else did and that he bet money on me. That's a better story, but some of the lads definitely knew.
Explain the miss against Juventus:
It was in New York on a preseason with United. There was a mistake between the keeper and a defender. I jumped because a defender tried to kick me and then came through with the goal open in front of me. The ball didn't move quickly and bounced a little bit. Instead of hitting it with my feet, I hit the ball with the ankle. Unbelievable. I didn't sleep that night, but we travelled to Philadelphia the next day where we played Barcelona. I scored two goals...
Favourite United goal?
A volley against Glasgow Rangers in the Champions League. I was on a good run and loved that goal. I scored some other great goals at United. The last minute winning goal against Chelsea or my first goal, an equaliser against Aston Villa when I took my shirt off. Or when I scored a winner against Southampton and couldn't get my shirt back on. And United fans like to remind me of the two I got at Anfield. They still sing that song, which it fantastic. I'm going to go with them to Anfield one day and stand with them.
How do you look back at your time at United?
Good. I scored important goals and won titles. I wanted to play more and at times I was frustrated.
People were good to me at United. Other players from South America like Kleberson found it far harder to settle as they didn't speak English. They were allowed to go back to South America for holidays. I wasn't!
I arrived as a young player in England at a club full of top players. Had I gone back there as a mature player I would have done much better, but I was a better player for my time in England.
Favourite ground to play in?
Old Trafford. I love that stadium, with the red stands which go up and up. Camp Nou is nice, the Bernabeu is better, but I prefer Old Trafford. It's a big pitch, the stands are closer to it. And it's full for every game.
Fabio Cannavaro, who was with Real Madrid when I played against him several times. He was the best player in the world in 2006. He wasn't tall, but very quick and strong. He always knew his opponents well, as if he'd researched them. When the ball came from the side, he was always touching and pushing me. He didn't give me space to start running. He wasn't dirty, he didn't kick, he just wouldn't let you run freely. He interrupted my flow for 90 minutes. Not many players managed it, but he suffocated my style in a fair way.
None. Things happen for a reason.
All-time XI of players you've played with?
David De Gea ; Martin Caceres, Laurent Blanc, Rio Ferdinand, Maico; Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane ; Juan Roman Riquelme, Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero
Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.