Five Games That Changed Me: Alan Harvey

Friday 03 May 2024 09:00

When home-and-away United fan Alan Harvey first journeyed to Old Trafford, George Best was at his zenith. And the short, eight-mile journey from Alan’s hometown of Denton, east of Manchester, felt like an epic undertaking.

Much has changed in the decades since. Denton has its own junction on the M60, quickening the journey across Manchester. George is, of course, sadly no longer with us, although his footballing immortality is as sure as it was in 1968, when he claimed the Ballon d’Or. As for Alan, he now attends matches with his son, Sam, 25. 
Last year, Harvey concluded a six-year stint on our Fans’ Forum, so it feels an appropriate time to discuss his long-lasting association with the club. Within minutes, we’re inevitably on to Best, even though the Northern Irishman’s era only fleetingly features in Alan’s choices for our ‘Five Games’ series.
“He got more people interested in United than anybody else,” marvels Harvey. “Even if you didn’t support United, you’d say you were a United fan because everyone wanted to be cool like George Best. He became this wonder-person; the way he played, the looks, the lifestyle. It was almost like a fairy story. He was just so talented.
“I was born in Manchester, right in the centre, opposite the Palace Theatre. I grew up in Denton but moved further out as time went on. Now I live in the Peak District, in Whaley Bridge, but me and my son still go home and away everywhere.”
For most, picking five games is a daunting prospect, but Alan happily tells us that it’s a challenge he feels well prepared for. “We often have these discussions,” he laughs. “Who are your top five players, your top five games? So I came to these fairly quickly...”
Celebrating the genius of George Best Video

Celebrating the genius of George Best

📽 On this day in 1963, George Best began his iconic United career! ❤ Here's why he's one of our greatest players...

First Division | Old Trafford | 16 November 1968
“It was the worst game ever! But my first pick is the first game I went to. Just to witness the stadium and the atmosphere as a young kid... well, that’s what got me hooked. It was one of Brian Kidd’s early games and I remember him being stretchered off. That was the highlight, it was such a boring game! But it didn’t matter, because I was at Old Trafford. It was just surreal. My friend’s dad had two sons. He was a fanatical Manchester United fan who had a season ticket, and was lucky enough to get the season tickets next to him so he could take his sons with him. But neither of them showed any interest in football whatsoever.
“He was moaning to my dad about it and my dad said: ‘Oh, our Alan loves football.’ So he said: ‘I’ll take him.’ My dad came home and said: ‘I’ve got some good news – Ron’s going to take you on Saturday to see United.’ The sheer number of people together in one place, all walking to the ground... obviously it was nearly all men. It was a bit like that Lowry picture: hordes of people. When the crowd moved, you moved with it! You got jostled. It was just crazy. I had never witnessed anything like it. It was the smell as well, I always remember that. Everyone smoking away, and a lot of people weeing where they stood! And then getting out after the game, it was just this mad crush. But it was just incredible.”
FA Cup final | Wembley Stadium | 20 May 1995
“I’m 67 now and my memory isn’t so good, but another that stands out is the first time I went to a cup final. It was a similar thing: the experience, the buzz. When you go every week, home and away, the games are all as good as each other, for lots of different reasons. But the first time you go to Wembley... I went in 1995 for Everton, and we lost! But it was just the build-up: the couple of weeks before, the thrill of getting tickets, finding out who else was going, arranging to meet people there... we lost but it didn’t matter. My career was in hospitality, so I had to work weekends and nights. I still went fairly regularly with friends who had spare tickets, but it wasn’t until my son got interested in football that I got my first season ticket, about 18 years ago. Before that my work did not allow me to go week-in, week-out. So a final was absolutely great.
“I remember driving down the motorway with a scarf hanging out the window. Then we met everybody and stayed in a hotel after the game so that we could enjoy the weekend, which we certainly did! You get over the result and find the positives, don’t you? The old Wembley... it’s a bit like going to a pub now; you either go to a quaint old pub with loads of character or a new one with all the mod cons. But as much as I like the new Wembley, it doesn’t have that character. The old one was a bit ramshackle – some parts were like being in prison! – but it was the Twin Towers and this iconic place. When you stood there, you thought: how many years have people been coming here to watch their teams get to an FA Cup final? We had an off-day, but you support United no matter what. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it?”
United 2 Manchester City 1 Video

United 2 Manchester City 1

12 February 2011: Wayne Rooney sinks City in the derby with one of the greatest goals Old Trafford has ever seen...

Premier League | Old Trafford | 12 February 2011
“You’ve got to have a derby, haven’t you? And my favourite derby was Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick. To me, the man of the match was Vincent Kompany. We battered them all through the game, and Kompany, who I admire tremendously as a person and an ambassador for the sport, just stood his ground and did everything to negate it. 
“I always remember his interview afterwards. He couldn’t stop laughing, because he said: ‘I did everything, and then he [Rooney] goes and does that?’ It was like the whole game was between these two great characters of the sport, and Rooney did this act of genius, or good fortune, and beat him. And the absolute uproar when he scored it... it nearly brought tears to your eyes. The best goal I’ve seen at Old Trafford? Yes, I think it was. We’ve seen many great things, but to beat City by just the one goal, and it taking that kind of goal to do it... I’ll never forget that. In fact, I paid a fortune for a signed picture of it, which is on the wall here in my office!”
West Bromwich Albion 5 United 5 Video

West Bromwich Albion 5 United 5

19 May 2013: Sir Alex Ferguson's last match as United manager was an extraordinary 5-5 draw at West Brom...

Premier League | The Hawthorns | 19 May 2013
“Fergie’s last match. You thought, ‘We’ll just go down there, he’ll play a full-strength team because it’s his last game, and we’ll beat them three- or four-nil, and he’ll go out on a high.’ But it was nothing like that at all! It had everything.
“It just shows you... people say football’s predictable. It’s not. That’s what makes it so exciting. You couldn’t write a script for this one. Both sets of fans were so in awe of Ferguson and what he’d done, there was no animosity anywhere. Even the West Brom fans were just glad to be there to see Ferguson. The next day, you just thought, ‘Well, it’s all over, let’s see what happens now.’ I know he had said he’d retire before and came back, but you just knew it was the end this time. You just felt thankful that you’d been part of it. He was a complete and utter one-off, and I’m so glad he went out on a high, and that he’s still going and still enjoying it all these years after his retirement.”
Watch in full: PSG 1 United 3 Video

Watch in full: PSG 1 United 3

As chosen by you through the Official App, enjoy United's thrilling victory over Paris Saint-Germain in full...

Champions League | Parc des Princes | 6 March 2019
“We’ve talked about this game a lot, my son and myself. We’re fortunate to go on a lot of European aways and we try to go the day before and come back the day after, so we can spend time with all the rest of the guys that go. The European away experience is just second to none. We’ve been all over – Kazakhstan, Moldova, everywhere – but that game... I still watch it on YouTube now! Did I give us a chance? Once you’ve sat with people through the day and had a couple of beers, everybody gets confident! ‘Oh, we’ll do it!’ ‘We know we’re going to lose, so we can go for it.’ Everybody has their theories. When it happens and it goes in your favour, it’s just brilliant. But whatever the result, it’s about this big community.
“When you get to a new city, whether it’s Paris or Madrid or in Moldova, whatever, you go and find the bars with United flags and you join in. And every time we go we get to know more and more people, of all ages and backgrounds. You sit there all afternoon in the sunshine – if it’s somewhere like Seville – and chat about football or United. We’ve made so many good friends over the years, though you don’t know the names of half of them! Then after the game – especially if we’ve won – you’re out to the early hours, dancing around and, sometimes, drinking to excess! I’ve loved going with my son for the last 15 or 16 years, and we’re looking forward to more.”