When talking about some of Manchester United’s greatest strikers, most fans would rarely omit Andy Cole. After all his lethal partnership with fellow striker Dwight Yorke was as iconic as it was integral to United’s fabled season in 1998/99 where they won a historic treble.
In town as part of JSSL 7s Guest of Honour, Goal Singapore caught up with the former England international to get his thoughts on the current situation at United and more.
While many fans strongly associate Cole with his time at The Red Devils, the 47-year-old however began his career by signing with Arsenal as a 14-year-old schoolboy. Sadly, things did not work out for him in North London but Cole is quick to point out that unlike today, there weren’t many football academies in the past which could provide a young player with the proper guidance.
“I joined Arsenal as a schoolboy. There weren’t (football) academies during my time. You sign as a schoolboy and you go on and join your respective football club.”
“The whole academy thing is really huge now and we see them trying to entice players at a young age, to participate, train and enjoy their football. These academies do a good job of taking them step by step and take them into the first team, so it’s totally different to my time.”
From Arsenal to United and with the Manchester club being so close to his heart, Goal Singapore questioned him on what he thought of the situation between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho.
“The tension between the two seems to have dampened down,” said the 1993-94 Golden Boot winner.
“Paul (Pogba) is trying his best to galvanise the team and is trying to win football matches which is what the manager wants.”
“It is obviously a tough time at United because everyone expects more from them and when you play at a club as huge as United, such situations are normal.”
“It started off as a bit of a difficult season but we are not even halfway through the season. As my previous manager used to say, it doesn’t really start till Easter.”
Subsequently despite Cole’s upbeat comments it is about to get tougher for United especially when they travel to Turin next week to take on Juventus, in the Champions League. Of course Cole isn’t a stranger to playing against the Italian champions. He after all was part of that United team which beat Juve en route to winning the treble.
“That semi-final in 99 in Turin against Juve was the best game I ever played in,” revealed Cole.
“To go 2-0 down and then to bounce back 2-2 and to go on and win the game 3-2 was fantastic. In the second half we played like men possessed against a solid Juve team.”
“But for us to go on and beat them (Juventus) just showed the world how good United were and the force that we were turning into.”
Conversely if there is any forward right now who could use some of Cole’s goal-scoring sharpness it would have to be Romelu Lukaku who has been criticised heavily this season. However Cole believes the Belgian befits the quality needed to play for a club like United.
“If you look at last season, Lukaku was banging in the goals. Obviously this season he is finding it a little bit harder. Confidence is a major factor but I believe once he regains that confidence, he will be good to go.”
Besides Lukaku, Mourinho has also not been spared by the critics who tend to attack his conservative style of play. Goal Singapore then quizzed Cole if he would flourish under Mourinho’s style of football or would he have found it too restrictive especially for strikers.
“It is a game of creating chances and in recent games United have created more chances. When they create more chances as a centre-forward, you are going to have a better chance of scoring a goal.”
“When the team doesn’t create chances it is very difficult. Lukaku last season was getting no chances and he was creating something or netting from half-chances. It’s peaks and troughs.”
Lastly with all the striker issues going on at United, Goal Singapore asked Cole how many goals he thinks he will get if he played in the current United squad.
“Who knows? That is a tough one to answer because you never know how many goals you are going to score at the start of the season regardless of what team you play for.”