Five Games That Changed Me: Demetris Nathanael

Tuesday 06 December 2022 07:00

United’s many supporters in Cyprus had waited generations for the Reds to face a club from their homeland. And on 6 October 2022, that long-held dream was finally realised, as Erik ten Hag’s side faced Omonia Nicosia in the Europa League, edging a thrilling match 3-2.

Fans like Demetris Nathanael, who is based in Nicosia, can trace their love for United back to the 1970s. These days, Demetris’ involvement with the club goes even deeper: after years spent living in Manchester, following the Reds, he now sits on the Fans’ Forum as the Official Overseas Supporters’ Club representative.
We caught up with him in the aftermath of that victory in Cyprus, for the first feature in a new Inside United series, where lifelong fans tell us about the matches that define their time supporting the Reds.
“My memories of United are predominantly shaped by the period when I was a student,” he begins. “When I was living and studying in Manchester. At school, I was never sure what degree to study, but I was always sure about where I’d be living: Manchester was my first choice, so I could be close to Old Trafford.
“Luckily, I was there in the mega Sir Alex Ferguson years,” he smiles. “There was so much anticipation for so many games. It’s really hard to pick out five that were the best or the most exciting – they all were, really! There’s so many moments and little memories: the crazy things Fabien Barthez did, the free-kicks by David Beckham, Andy Cole’s running.
“But these are the games that are in my head – the ones that have stayed there...”
United 3 Blackburn Rovers 1 Video

United 3 Blackburn Rovers 1

3 May 1993: With the league title in the bag, United finished the home campaign in style against Blackburn...

Premier League | Old Trafford | 3 May 1993
“We were in Manchester, I was 21 years old, and it happened – in 1993, United won the first title since 1967. We were going to the games, as registered members, but we could not believe it when we were told we’d secured tickets for the last home game of the season, where we played Blackburn Rovers and won 3-1. A few of us prepared a banner saying ‘MUFC Cyprus’.
It’s even in the season review video that United issued at the end of the season (screengrab inset above). I always remember the commentator on the video saying: ‘They came from far and wide to celebrate!’
“We walked all the way up to Old Trafford with it. People were offering us mega sums to buy our tickets, but nobody could miss such an event. It was something else. That was one of the first games that shaped things for me. It’s still in my mind now. I remember buying the souvenir programme that was issued. Inside there was a very big Bryan Robson pull-out. Everybody wanted it, but I kept it for myself. It was one of the most exciting nights I’ve been to.”
Premier League | Selhurst Park | 25 January 1995
“There were so many things happening in those years. Probably the second game would have to be the Eric Cantona kick, the game away to Crystal Palace. Everybody was watching Eric Cantona at the time. Everybody knew he was special, but also that he could be a loose cannon and that anything could happen at any moment. Everybody was talking about that game and showing it over and over on TV in Cyprus. United were in that great black kit. Everybody was saying it was outrageous, but we knew what Eric was like.
“You always knew that he was under Ferguson’s control, but you also knew that if he was pushed, he could do something like that. We didn’t expect it – and it you could not say it was correct – but you don’t know what was said to him. He was talking to Sir Alex Ferguson as he was walking off from the red card and then it just suddenly happened. Who would have thought that, after so many years, we’d still be singing: ‘Ooh, ahh, Cantona!’ But it makes you realise how much impact his presence had on the team at the time. So this was such a big moment.”
United 5 Nottingham Forest 0 Video

United 5 Nottingham Forest 0

28 April 1996: Sir Alex's side put on a five-star display against Forest in our penultimate league fixture of 95/96...

Premier League | Old Trafford | 28 April 1996
“After Cantona’s ban, you thought things would die down. But the opposite happened! We were there as students, following United everywhere. The new season began and it was a strange one – Paul Ince was gone, Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis – and Ferguson wasn’t bringing anybody new in. But Beckham, Gary Neville and Scholes were coming through, and Ferguson was right.
“We became the first United team to win the Double. The last game in the league was an away game [at Middlesbrough] but the one that stands out in my memory was 28 April 1996, when we played Nottingham Forest. It was a game where everybody seemed to score. We won 5-0 – Beckham scored twice, Giggs, Cantona, Scholes had scored. It was a stressful time [in the title race], and you could tell during the first half. We had to prove we were worthy of winning the league, and Ferguson had to prove he’d been right in picking the youngsters. The first goal didn’t come until just before half-time, but it was as if something had been set loose. An amazing performance. It felt like proof that we were worthy of being champions.
“When I visit Old Trafford, even now, with the red bricks and the way you climb the stairs, you suddenly go back so many years and to games like this. You remember that this is the stadium where everything was won. The stadium was always something magnificent and out of the ordinary. But the feeling is always so strong whenever you walk in. I had that feeling in the 1990s, and I get the same feeling now.”
United 2 Bayern Munich 1 Video

United 2 Bayern Munich 1

Match Rewind | An unforgettable night in Barcelona as United completed the Treble in extraordinary fashion...

Champions League | Nou Camp | 26 May 1999
“I know this is everybody’s favourite game, but the Treble is my wish-I-had-been-there match of the 1990s. Of course, we are still the only English club side to win the league, the FA Cup and the Champions League, and I always like to talk about that! 
“We were back in Cyprus at the time. It was such a special day. We got all our friends and relatives together and had a special way to watch the football: we were in a pub that was especially set up just to show United. The build-up for us was to wear our shirts and to make what you would know as souvlaki – kebabs. We had a big turnout, ate food, drank beers, and then started to watch the game. Everyone was so anxious; Bayern Munich were playing well. Then the shock: Sheringham scoring in injury time and then Ole Gunnar in injury time again. Everybody went ballistic – that’s the only word I can use.”
United 7 West Ham 1 Video

United 7 West Ham 1

1 April 2000: Paul Scholes netted a hat-trick as the Reds beat West Ham 7-1 to open up a 10-point gap at the top...

Premier League | Old Trafford 1999/00 | 1 April 2000
“The season after the Treble, we won the Premier League for the sixth time in eight years. There was a game in April when we played West Ham and it showed our strength at the time. It was a we-could-not-be-beaten sort of team. The game finished 7-1 – Scholes had scored a hat-trick, Andy Cole, Beckham, Solskjaer and Irwin got the others. It was like 11 lions. You couldn’t do anything; you couldn’t stop them scoring.
“It was a season where there were injuries – Wes Brown wasn’t playing many of the games, Sheringham too – but we had all these players that were just magnificent. It was a show of strength. Put any 11 opponents against us, and we’ll just give them a thrashing. This game summed up that feeling. I was personally affected by these games, and those feelings are still there. They are still there when I walk into Old Trafford, ready to watch the team play again.”
The Manchester United Fans’ Forum brings together representatives from all across the United fan base, providing an open forum for both the club and supporters to maintain constructive dialogue.

Demetris is the Official Overseas Supporters’ Club representative, but there are 16 reps in total, at the time of writing, and all fulfil a different remit. One rep sits in on behalf of the Manchester United Disabled Supporters’ Association, for example. Supporters under 21 have their own representative, too. And so on. The forum meets four times a season, and any fan can submit a question for discussion. Chief Executive Officer Richard Arnold typically attends the meetings, so this is a chance for supporters to have their views heard by the most senior figures at Manchester United.

To find out more about the Fans’ Forum – including how you can contact your representatives with any concerns or questions – head to