Freelance journalist and avid Manchester United fan Darren Richman was lucky enough to play on the Old Trafford pitch last month, thanks to bwin, the club’s official online gaming and betting partner.
Below, Darren recalls the experience of a lifetime. You can also click on the main image above to launch a gallery of pictures from the day...
I’ve had plenty of recurring dreams in my life: opening the batting at Lord’s, delivering an Oscar acceptance speech, headlining Glastonbury, eating lunch with Larry David.
But the dream I’ve had most frequently is the one in which I play on the pitch at Old Trafford. And last month, quite incredibly, my dream came true.
I’ve been a United fan since 1988 and attended matches at the Theatre of Dreams for nearly as long. So when bwin presented me with the chance to write about an event that would involve playing on the hallowed Old Trafford turf alongside Gary Neville, Denis Irwin, Andrew Cole and Dion Dublin, I jumped at the chance.
I arrived – along with a host of competition winners – in Manchester on a Wednesday morning and boarded a bus to Salford City Stadium for a Manchester United Soccer Schools session. I was nervous. After all, just because you dream about something doesn’t mean you’re actually any good at it.
The competition winners came from all over the globe. One poor soul had flown in from Denmark that morning, only to go over his ankle within a minute of the training session beginning. The opportunity of a lifetime had been dashed by a cruel twist of fate.
Thankfully I came through unscathed, if a little stiff and sore, and that evening we were taken to a wonderful Chinese restaurant regularly frequented by the players. We enjoyed an outstanding meal in the company of Andrew Cole and Dion Dublin and discussed all things United before they announced the teams for the following day’s game.
Breakfast was tense the next morning. I was anxious, as though the closer my dream came to reality the more I feared it would turn out to be a nightmare. Mind you, I wasn’t helping myself: I doubt many United stars’ pre-match meals consist of waffles with banana and Nutella.