When we arrived at the stadium we were taken to a private box and treated to tea and croissants before entering the home dressing room, where I sat in the corner normally occupied by Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes. Denis Irwin reiterated our enjoyment was the most important thing and I felt that if I could avoid making a total fool of myself then that would be enough. I admit it’s probably not the same mentality Roy Keane used to arm himself with before a game...
Kit on and boots laced, we made our way down the tunnel with the Champions League music blaring. Alan Keegan, the stadium announcer, introduced the teams just as I’ve heard him do hundreds of times before. The difference was that this time is that I was in one of them.
It is impossible to convey how big the stadium feels for the first few minutes. Although the pitch is no bigger than any other, it feels that way at first due to the imposing surroundings. I started off at right-back with a simple aim: a touch of the ball. I managed this surprisingly quickly and even managed to find a pass. Not exactly an 80-yard Beckham cross-field floater but a pass nevertheless.
I recalculated my aims and decided I wanted to link up with Denis Irwin. "Denis!" I called when he was in possession. He passed the ball firmly towards me, and then, much to his surprise, I passed it straight back to him. I had just played a one-two with one of United’s finest ever defenders on the pitch at Old Trafford. This man was in the 1999 treble-winning team. I could die happy.
We received nothing by way of tactical instruction but Gary Neville, the opposing team’s skipper, seemed determined to win. When our Finnish midfielder, seemingly a novice, took what was quite clearly a foul throw, Nev was in the referee’s ear appealing. When he was told it was just a bit of fun, he shot back: "It’s not worth playing if we’re not gonna do it properly". It was the authentic Neville experience.
As the game progressed, I moved further up the pitch in a bid to go one better and actually score a goal. On the hour mark I managed a neat one-two and I was one-on-one with the keeper (who happened to be former Premier League striker Dion Dublin). Someone shouted: "Lob him" but that didn’t seem the greatest ploy. Instead, I panicked and blasted it straight at him.
“Richman misses a golden opportunity at Old Trafford.” I've waited 28 years to see words like that in print.
The game ended in an 11-7 defeat for our boys but