SUNSPORT’S Danny Higginbotham talks to Andrew Cole about the Liverpool vs Manchester United clash on Saturday, their time together at Old Trafford and Cole’s brilliant record at Anfield…
DANNY HIGGINBOTHAM: You had a great record against Liverpool — 11 goals, eight at Anfield and four for United. I remember the 3-1 in 1997. You scored two. What was it like scoring at Anfield for United?
ANDREW COLE: I loved scoring goals, man, being involved with them. And scoring at Anfield was special.
You have certain teams and, no disrespect, I always fancied they would give me a chance. I could be out the team for two games and Sir Alex would always bring me back for Liverpool.
DH: Was scoring at Anfield your biggest high?
AC: It was great but it wasn’t my biggest high. Just playing for a big team, winning games, having a good rapport with your fans and your team-mates, that’s the high.
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DH: Did Liverpool games mean more to Sir Alex Ferguson?
AC: Oh, man. Massive. Every game was big but then there was Liverpool!
When we beat them the gaffer would come into the changing room and do a little jig.
I remember one game, I got sent off at Anfield but we still won. Normally, he’d fine you if you were sent off but he was buzzing so much, he forgot. I got away with one there.
DH: Ever score at The Kop?
AC: Yeah, for Blackburn. A half-volley.
DH: Dipped over the keeper’s head. I remember. When you were playing for United which was the bigger game, City or Liverpool?
AC: Liverpool for sure.
DH: And now?
AC: Liverpool’s always going to be big, with the history, the European Cups . . . but it’s changed a bit because they haven’t been challenging for the title. But it’s still a massive, massive game.
DH: So City have taken over?
AC: No. It takes more prominence because they can win the league but Liverpool is still bigger.
DH: I agree. Which was your best United goal?
AC: For the importance, maybe against Spurs to win the league in 1999. That led to the Treble.
But I enjoyed them all. Little chips, tap-ins, headers.
DH: No matter what you did for United, winning the Treble, all the goals, people still go back to that West Ham game in 1995.
AC: Of course.
DH: But it’s ridiculous. It didn’t matter what anybody did, that ball was not going in! Ludek Miklosko had the game of his life.
AC: It’s swings and roundabouts. That was ’95 and I was lambasted for costing Man U the title and then in ’99 it had gone full circle. That’s football. I don’t sit at home and study it. At the time I took it tough. But I look back on my career, what I achieved given where I came from . . .
DH: I made my home debut against Leicester in 1999 and you scored a kind of overhead kick. It was a hard chance but you looked like you expected to score.
As a young lad at Old Trafford, seeing the way you guys trained, the standards, how seriously you’d take it, the arguments, it never felt like you were going to get beat.
AC: It was an unbelievable mentality. We’d bicker over the smallest things in training. We’d be in the square and if someone passed it a yard short, we’d argue for ten minutes about who was going in the box.
It didn’t mean we didn’t like each other. It was about standards.
DH: That Treble team was unbelievable. So good. Talent but you wouldn’t back down either.
AC: Yeah, we looked after each other.
DH: That spine! Schmeichel, Stam, Keane and you and Yorke up top. It’s the best team I’ve seen in the Premier League.
AC: Yeah. And the boys always used to say how important the spine of the team was.
But Sir Alex and the midfield boys like Scholesy used to say you’re only as good as your centre-forward. And we had four good ones.
But it was an unbelievable team. The best I ever played in.
DH: I left United at 21. Never good enough for the first team. But what I took away from Old Trafford was how to conduct myself on and off the pitch. How to train.
It was less about ‘this is your body shape as a defender’ — more about how to behave. It was invaluable.
AC: The gaffer had a lot to do with that. Setting standards. He knew everyone’s name. He’s a top man.
DH: Agreed. Even down to the snotty-nosed apprentices, he knew everyone.
Now on to this United team. Obviously, there’s been massive rebuilding. But I look at this side and I’m seeing the United I love, the one I supported as a kid. And a manager who looks like a United manager.
I think this is Jose Mourinho’s dream job. Do you see him there long term?
AC: I hope so. I know he’s had that cycle of three years, people fall out of love with him, he moves on — but I’d like to think he’d be here long term and will bring back success.
DH: The spine is good now.
AC: Yeah. De Gea’s a fantastic keeper, Bailly, Jones is playing well. In the midfield — Paul Pogba, Matic has been unbelievable. And Mkhitaryan. Then Lukaku, Rashford.
DH: Are you surprised Romelu Lukaku hit the ground running?
AC: No. He’d done it in the Premier League for the past five seasons. He was always going to score goals.
DH: But there’s pressure being United’s record striker signing? You were. Did you feel it?
AC: Yes, but it was different. I had to keep United at the top. Now Romelu has to get them there but that buys you a bit of time.
If I didn’t cut it, I’d be on the bench. Mind you, if Romelu doesn’t, United can go out and buy a new striker.
DH: Is there more pressure on Liverpool than United tomorrow?
AC: Yeah. They’re at home. They’re shipping goals. Klopp’s been there two years and it’s still a bit topsy-turvy. But this is also United’s first real test.
DH: True. Will United play on the break?
AC: It wouldn’t surprise me. Liverpool are the home team. They need to win. United can sit a bit and Soak it all up. And they have pace to do damage.
DH: And Liverpool struggle when they are hit on the break. Fellaini is out for United. No one would have thought it mattered a year ago, but he’s been unbelievable lately.
AC: He’s had a great start this season. You need someone who believes in you and the manager does. On the flip side, look at Herrera who was United’s best player last season — he can’t get a game. That’s football.
DH: I saw a picture of you in the gym with Zlatan. How’s he?
AC: Really good. Back next year, I think, so he’s done well really.
DH: Where does he fit in now, though?
AC: He’ll get games because he’s got so much quality. And he’s brilliant in the dressing room. I love Zlatan. He tells you how it is. He’s legendary.