His United career may not have panned out the way Diego Forlan would have hoped, but the 31-year-old Uruguayan has no regrets. Why should he?
He's enjoyed a sublime career since leaving OT in 2004. Twice top scorer in Spain’s Primera Liga (once at Villarreal; once at current club Atlético Madrid, with whom he won the Europa League and European Super Cup this year), Forlan also won the Golden Ball for best player at the 2010 World Cup. But he still cherishes the memories of his time as a Red, especially two goals at Anfield in 2002…
How do you remember those two goals?
Very clearly. They came at a difficult time for me. I was not playing so much and hardly playing in the big games. I didn’t feel like a footballer. I was training, but not playing. At the start of my time at United I was OK about sitting on the bench or even in the stands, but then I wanted to be playing 90 minutes. That game against Liverpool was one time I played a full game. It was not an easy game to start in and the first half was difficult, I didn’t see much of the ball. Part of me was thinking that I was going to be substituted, but it all changed in the second half. Gary Neville was the first to come up to me after the game as we celebrated. He looked me in the eyes and said, “They’ll never forget you here after that.” I always remember that. I knew there was a big rivalry, but I didn’t fully understand it. I was a guy from Montevideo, how would I? But I began to understand the importance after that, by the reaction of the players and the travelling fans behind the goal. And Gary was right.
You’ve gone on to great success after United. Where do those goals rank in your career?
They’re among the best. It doesn’t get much better than scoring twice for Manchester United at Anfield. I’ve worked hard and been lucky since I left United. I won the Pichichi [Spain’s top goalscorers’ award] twice and the European Golden Boot too. With Uruguay, we reached the semi-final of the World Cup which was fantastic for us. We’re a small country of 3.5 million people. We’re like Wales, Scotland or Ireland. Can you imagine them reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup? But none of those achievements earned me a special song like scoring at Anfield did!
You and Jerzy Dudek both live in Madrid. Have you played against him since or spoken about that game?
No, no, no. I’ve played against him a few times, but not spoken to him. It’s