"I think Manchester United have become the most important club in the world."

- Pele, April 1998
16/01/2010 09:00, Report by Steve Bartram

OT100 #66: Pele's visit

When the Old Trafford museum relocated to the North Stand in 1998, the club were able to attract football's biggest name to perform the re-opening...

The Background: Unable to cope with the swarms of visitors who flocked to M16 to brush up on United's rich history, the club took the decision to expand and move the museum to the North Stand in 1998, eight years after it had been first built in the South Stand. When the new £4million, three-level showcase was ready for the public, United enlisted the highest-profile figure in football's history - Brazilian megastar Pele - to perform the grand opening.

The Occasion: Pele jetted to Manchester for a two day tour, and even brought three World Cup winner's medals and match-worn shirts to form a centrepiece of a temporary exhibit. He happily posed for photographs with United's star-struck players and answered questions from the press. "I think Manchester United have become the most important club in the world because of their administration and their stock market listing," he opined. Upon learning that he would be watching the Reds take on Liverpool in the Premier League, Pele was asked which United player he was looking forward to watching. Misunderstanding the question - or displaying eerie foresight - he answered, 'Michael Owen', who went on to score for the visitors in a 1-1 draw.

The Aftermath: Whereas 192,000 people took the museum and stadium tour in 1998, that figure has ballooned to more than 300,000 each year - and the clamour to learn about United continues. "We're steadily getting bigger year upon year," says museum manager Damian Preston.


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