Cole: Why I loved playing with Laurent Blanc

Tuesday 18 July 2023 07:00

Manchester United's next pre-season friendly has evoked memories of an "elegant" and "phenomenal" team-mate for club legend Andy Cole.

The Reds' enticing second game of the summer is at Murrayfield in Edinburgh this coming Wednesday (14:00 BST), against a Lyon side managed by Laurent Blanc. Tickets are still available here.

Cole, who made 275 appearances for United between 1995 and 2001, only played in the same team as the Frenchman for six months but it was long enough for the prolific striker to appreciate the World Cup-winning defender's qualities.

“Laurent? Oh man. Laurent was a Rolls Royce,” Andy told us, in an exclusive interview to promote the Lyon match.

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“He was a real quality player. I’ve said to myself, I'd love to have played with Laurent when he was younger as well, because the way he played towards the end of his career, he was fantastic.

“He was elegant. Very, very elegant. You can talk about him not being blessed with pace but what he had upstairs [mentally] was phenomenal. He always found himself in great positions. No one found themselves in a position where they could run him.

“And yeah, he was a real nice guy as well.”

One of the undoubted highlights of Blanc and Cole's brief spell together at United, before the latter moved on to Blackburn Rovers midway through the 2001/02 season, was the classic away win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men were mauled 3-0 in the first half at White Hart Lane but somehow stormed through the second period to triumph 5-3. Andy was the first Red to reduce the arrears, swiftly after the restart, and he was followed onto the scoresheet by Laurent just before the hour mark. But did the forward think at the time that a comeback was on the cards?

“I think we believed that if we could get an early goal, anything was possible,” recalled Cole.

“So to get a goal in - what was it, the 46th minute or whatever - we knew then we had a chance. It was Tottenham.”

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Andy revealed there was no stirring speech from the manager at half-time, just an expectation that his side would eventually succeed.

“There was no team talk. That's just it. I remember he didn't say a thing. So, yeah, it's crazy looking back at that result and how we did it.

“[As a comeback] that's definitely up there. It's obviously between that game and Juventus, when we were 2-0 down. That was also really special.

“I love those two games. Naturally, the European game is different because it was Juventus and no one gave us a chance. This [5-3] one was nice but like I said, it was Tottenham.”

Blanc: United fans are magnificent


Laurent Blanc relishes meeting our supporters again, as ticket sales for Wednesday's game in Edinburgh continue.

Our opponents Lyon are the fifth team to be managed by Blanc since retiring as a player at the end of 2002/03, a season in which he helped the Reds to win the Premier League title.

Twenty years on, he'll manage against his former club and Cole believes the French outfit will provide an intriguing challenge for Erik ten Hag's side in the Scottish capital.

“It'll be a really good test,” assessed Andy. “Ultimately no one wants to lose, even in pre-season.

“I think United always now prepare themselves for European football, that's why you want to take on this kind of opponent in pre-season.

“If you look at my time, some of the games they are playing now, we would never have played in pre-season, because these are really tough opponents.

“But it is what it is now, and I think it's really good that you have the opportunity to play these guys early doors because at some stage in Europe you might come across teams like Lyon.”

Cole: Edinburgh game is one to enjoy


Club legend Andy Cole is encouraging fans to attend a rare game for the Reds in Scotland.

Cole admits the calibre of opposition isn't the only aspect that has changed for the better when it comes to preparing for the campaign ahead. As the Treble winner recalls with a grimace, he and his team-mates would tend to return after the summer break with a fortnight of fitness work.

“Pre-season has changed a hell of a lot. When we were doing pre-season, the ball wasn't seen for two weeks!  Now they get the balls out straight away and they're playing a game within a week!”

Would Andy have preferred the modern-day method? “One hundred per cent! Get the balls out from day one. For us to get a football out on the first day... dear me. It was crazy.”

Tickets for United v Lyon in Edinburgh are available from Ticketmaster.

The game will be shown live on MUTV, and the United App.