Date:Thursday November 13 2008
Andy Cole announced his retirement from football after terminating his contract at Nottingham Forest. He admitted it wasn't the parting he had wanted - but his career's been close to a farce since he left United anyway.
Cole also admitted that he regrets the decision to leave Old Trafford to this day, and advised Carlos Tevez to stick to United and fight for his place. But it's not Tevez I want to talk about, his case's been done to death. I'd pose the question: does Andy Cole deserve to be ranked among the legends at United?
275 appearances brought 121 goals which is just a goal per every other game ratio. That's pretty good but is this legendary stuff?
Most United fans I know are undecided. His quiet nature and the amount of criticism he received during his career makes it hard to think of him as a legend. He wasn't a big-game hero in the mould of Robson, Hughes or Keane, nor such a predatory goalscorer as Ruud van Nistelrooy and he wasn't a catalyst on the grand scale, wasn't a player of outstanding presence like the great Eric Cantona.
In fact, the obvious dislike between them seemed to split Old Trafford a bit and Cole never became such a crowd favourite that he would have deserved to be as most of the fans sided with King Eric. Many even said that the arrival of Cole, for a then record transfer fee in 1995 was actually disruptive for the team.
In my opinion, that is very far from the truth. He never became the main man, he never had a really defining season, the way that 1995/96 was Cantona's campaign. His best, 1998/99, was a tad overshadowed by the brilliance of Keane, Beckham and most importantly, his colleague and great friend Dwight Yorke who took United by storm after signing from Aston Villa.
Shearer, Fowler, Owen, Sheringham: in these days it's easy to forget what striking riches were available for England when Andy was in his prime so he was often overlooked at the national team as well. Glenn Hoddle's famous opinion on him somehow stuck, despite the fact that Hoddle was so often ridiculed in England that he must have lost count of the occasions. It was the former England manager who said that he felt Andy sometimes needed four or five chances to score.
It is highly unjust. Andy Cole was never a predator like Law, Rush or Van Nistelrooy. His main strength was his pace, his mobility and his intelligence - but he wasn't a serial chance-squanderer, the way our brilliant Rooney unfortunately is. Some even claimed he was a big-game bottler which was also far from truth. Most of these accusations were based on the last game of his debut season, the infamous 1-1 draw at West Ham which cost United the title. Cole, who was in great form up to that point, missed two gilt-edged chances where it would have been easier to score.
You can also point to the 1997 European Cup semi-final where he and Cantona spurned a staggering amount of opportunities to put the game beyond Borussia Dortmund who went on to win both legs 1-0... But while these mistakes, these bad games undeniably happened, we mustn't forget when he delivered: he scored an important goal at Middlesbrough on the final day of 1995/96, scored the winner against Spurs which clinched the title in 1999, he was absolutely brilliant at Juventus in the same year and scored the winner which confirmed that we were going to Barcelona.
He was a quiet, unassuming guy who gave great performances to Manchester United. You might have gathered by now that I rated him very highly and indeed, I think that he deserves to be called a legend of the club after seven years' stellar services.
Date:Thursday November 13 2008
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