Why nothing is half-baked for Blomqvist

Friday 23 September 2022 13:58

Jesper Blomqvist returns on Saturday to the scene of where Manchester United's Treble bid looked like coming unstuck.

The Swede was heavily involved in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool that threatened to derail our title hopes, handing Arsenal the initiative, after the Reds finished with 10 men and had to endure ex-midfielder Paul Ince celebrating a late equaliser for the Merseysiders.

The stakes, of course, will not be as high this weekend when the Legends of the North contest concludes, with the main purpose raising vital funds for the local communities. Fans contributed over £1.3 million to the Old Trafford game, which ended 3-1 to Liverpool in May, and supporters from both bitter rivals must acknowledge this is all that truly matters.

However, any clash at Anfield is not to be taken lightly - and this is something clear to Blomqvist, who is also facing pressure on a different stage, as part of his life away from football.

Liverpool 2 United 2 Video

Liverpool 2 United 2

5 May 1999: A breathless contest between the two old rivals as United aimed to move a step closer to the title...

Those events from 1999 still rankle with the winger, who was awarded a penalty for a blatant foul by Jamie Carragher but also conceded one for a less-obvious indiscretion against Oyvind Leonhardsen, with referee David Elleray also controversially dismissing Denis Irwin, which ruled the full-back out of the upcoming FA Cup final with Newcastle United.

"Of course, Anfield is something special," Blomqvist told us from his home in Sweden. "It's always a really nice chance to meet up with everybody. I'm definitely looking forward to it a lot.

"I don't remember if it was Jamie or somebody else who kicked me down. Then, well I didn't kick somebody down but the referee gave a penalty to Liverpool as well for a tackle I made. I don't think it was the right call.

"I think so [the title bid was under real threat]. So there was a bit of disappointment after that game. I definitely felt it was going to be hard to win it after that game."

Nothing will ever take away the achievement from that group of players under Alex Ferguson's expert management but talk of a repeat feat seems to spring up on an annual basis.

Even this early in a disrupted season, there have been suggestions in some quarters that Manchester City could pull it off, even going the whole campaign unbeaten, while Liverpool flirted with a clean sweep at one point last term, but only ended up with the FA Cup and Carabao Cup after falling short in the Premier League and Champions League.

"I think so [it only amplifies United's achievement]," agreed Blomqvist. "More time passes and you see teams trying and going close and it's then that you realise, like you say, exactly how hard it is. You really need a bit of luck in the last couple of games to really make it and win three competitions like we did.

"It's a fantastic achievement and let's see when somebody manages to do it the next time."

Squad named for Legends game


Some fresh faces - and a new manager - will be involved in Saturday's charity match against Liverpool.

Jesper is a fan of the Reds these days, cheering us on with his son, so he hopes if a Treble is to be emulated, it will be by United at some point in the future.

In terms of life away from football, he still runs his Stockholm pizzeria, and is also facing the intense pressure of working in the kitchen under the scrutiny of experts and TV viewers in his homeland.

"I've still got that [restaurant] and we've just moved to a bigger place," he told us. "We've won a few awards, especially from some Italian organisations and that makes me extra proud, those awards, but the most important thing is the customers keep coming back. We had a lot this summer and that was fantastic. That's the most important thing - awards are here and there but you need to win the game and get people to come back. That is, for sure, they're coming back and it feels great.

"[My favourite pizza?] Ah well, we have a lot of good ones but the classic Parma, with some Parma ham, Parmesan cheese and ricola, and maybe some extra buffalo mozzarella on top of that. It's a great pizza!

Highlights: Legends of the North Video

Highlights: Legends of the North

Watch the best bits from Saturday's clash, which raised a significant amount for the United Foundation...

"I just have to say I have finished recording going into MasterChef on Swedish TV as well. I'm going to compete in that programme as well because of my love of food, I love my wine and love my coffee too. I took this opportunity to compete in MasterChef VIP in Sweden and it's going to be fun, I hope.

"There's definitely much more pressure there. We have some ex-politicians involved and different kinds of people who were good opponents. Hopefully, we'll make some good food as well. I think I picked up the passion the Italians share for food and the materials. They are so passionate, sitting down for lunch, and are really excited about how they want it and what they want to eat. I really took that on board and kept that passion inside of me ever since."

There will be no shortage of passion when the two Legends teams run out at Anfield on Saturday, kicking off at 15:00 BST. Tickets are available until 4pm today (Friday) and it promises to be another excellent occasion for the worthiest of causes.