Paul Scholes Alex Ferguson and Pele

Miscellany of our home friendlies from United Review

Wednesday 28 July 2021 11:02

As Brentford come to Manchester for our first Old Trafford match this summer, it’s time to look back at some of our past friendly encounters at the Theatre of Dreams, courtesy of United Review.

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Friendlies at Old Trafford are rarer than you might think, the most recent being Michael Carrick’s 2017 testimonial. As United Review looks at our history with pre-season and friendly fixtures in the programme, here are some of our favourite tales.

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Inter (and Ince)

United played four friendlies against Internazionale in the 1990s, arranged as part of the transfer that saw Paul Ince swap Manchester for Milan. In the second 1997 meeting with I Nerazzurri, a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, United ran out of outfield substitutes, leaving young goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington to come on up front for the final nine minutes, during which he came close to scoring with an overhead kick.

The King returns

After his shock 1997 abdication, Eric Cantona didn’t return to Old Trafford until August 1998, forming a European XI to take on United in the Munich Memorial Match, 40 years on from the tragedy. Rapturous applause from the 55,210 crowd greeted the King on his return, and he duly responded with a thrilling solo goal in an entertaining and crazy 8-4 Reds win.

Scholes screamers

The most common Old Trafford friendlies are testimonials, and Paul Scholes’s tribute game came after his first retirement in 2011. New York Cosmos came to town in August, with Pele and Cantona included, and Scholes opened the scoring in typical fashion, lashing a 30-yard drive past Brad Friedel. Scholes was replaced in the second half by “promising youngster” Paul Pogba and United managed five more goals, including a double from Mame Biram Diouf.

A grinning Scholes after lashing home a classic long-range strike.

The ‘un-friendlies’

Not every ‘friendly’ lives up to its billing. In 2002, Boca Juniors came to Old Trafford and had striker Carlos Tevez sent off, the future United player dismissed for an elbow on Scholes. “It did get a bit meaty at times,” mused United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Irwin and Sir Alex Ferguson pose with the Treble after the Irishman's testimonial.

X-rated tackles

Denis Irwin’s testimonial game against Manchester City in August 2000 was marred by an early crunching, high challenge from George Weah, a knock that eventually forced the Irishman off after 37 minutes with an injured left ankle. Not the best celebration of his decade at the club, although United did win the match 2-0, Teddy Sheringham scoring a screamer before the Irwin incident.

To read more from our A-Z of Manchester United's friendly history, buy the latest United Review now.