Success isn’t always instant – and any Reds wishing Alex Ferguson had plumped for Nottingham Forest’s Stan Collymore when he went shopping for a new striker in the January 1995 sales – were forced to eat their hats over Andy Cole.
An inauspicious start to his Old Trafford career was followed by the most purple of purple patches, in which the Nottingham-born striker banged in a goal every couple of games, a ratio not seen in M16 since the golden age of Denis Law. It was only a matter of time, of course. Form is temporary, class is permanent.
Cole had blazed a trail at St James’ Park, scoring an astonishing 68 goals in just
74 matches, including 41 in the 1993/94 league season. Once he was off and running, benefiting from the prompting of Cantona, Giggs and Sharpe, he played like a dream, justifying every penny of his then-record £6.25 million transfer.
That first season saw Cole score an astonishing five times in the 9-0 rout of Ipswich Town at Old Trafford – a scoreline that remains an individual and team best in Premiership history.
Cole netted 11 league goals on the way to the 1995/96 title, snatched so memorably from the grasp of his old team-mates at Newcastle.
Further title success followed in 1996/97, a season