EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

"I was lucky enough to play for two very, very big clubs in Newcastle United and Manchester United so I’m looking forward to watching the game on Sunday."

- Liam O'Brien, first-team coach, Hibernian FC

06/10/2012 07:30, Report by Adam Bostock
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Tale of two Uniteds

Hibernian first-team coach Liam O'Brien talks to ManUtd.com about his Eighties playing days with Manchester United and his move to Sunday's opponents Newcastle United...

Will you be watching Sunday’s game with interest?
Yes, you always have an interest in clubs you’ve played for, to see how they’re getting on. I was lucky enough to play for two very, very big clubs so I’m looking forward to watching the game on Sunday. It should be a great game. Manchester United will probably be favourites but Alan Pardew has done a fantastic job at Newcastle. His chief scout [Graham Carr] has helped him to bring in some great players. As a former midfielder myself, I particularly like Cheick Tiote and the creative player Ben Arfa.

Presumably you were more familiar with Manchester United than Newcastle United as a kid?
Yes, where I grew up in Ireland in the early Seventies, there were really only fans of three clubs – United, Liverpool and also Leeds who were very successful at the time.

Friends and family at home must have been thrilled when you crossed the Irish Sea to sign for the Reds in 1986?
It was a great opportunity for me. I was playing for Shamrock Rovers at the time and we played a few friendlies against Manchester United before I came over. I did quite well in those games and we were quite a successful team in Ireland in the early Eighties. We won four leagues in a row so we were getting a lot of exposure. I was 21, maybe 22, when I got my chance. You always think your chance has gone. I played against Celtic in a European Cup game, did very well and was named Man of the Match. That helped seal my move to United. Arsenal came in for me as well but when I heard United were interested, I jumped at the chance. I turned out to be Ron Atkinson’s last signing.

Was is it a problem that Atkinson was sacked shortly after signing you?
To be honest, no, because I was coming from Ireland rather than another top division club in England so nobody had any expectations of me anyway. I was coming from part-time football to full-time football so I thought it would take me about a year to get used to that transition. That’s what I was looking at – I’d been playing well in Ireland and I thought if I trained with better players at United, I’d eventually get a chance. Then obviously a month later the manager gets sacked, a new manager comes in and I was thinking, ‘I hope he likes me.’ But then I heard through the grapevine that he’d tried to sign me as well when he was Aberdeen

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