Why Kanchelskis was a sensational signing

Tuesday 22 June 2021 08:00

In the latest episode of MUTV's new show The Debate, our panellists were asked to discuss Manchester United's greatest scouting successes under Sir Alex Ferguson.

The criteria was simple: the player in question had to have been recruited from overseas, before they became an established star, and for a relatively modest fee.

That ruled out such high-profile names like Cristiano Ronaldo, who was acquired from Sporting Lisbon thanks to a record fee for a teenager, or Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel – who were both already prominent internationals for their respective countries.

Our shortlist included suggestions such as Javier Hernandez, Ronny Johnsen and, of course, our current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
But former Reds winger Ben Thornley was keen to eulogise about Andrei Kanchelskis – the rapid Russian winger we signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in 1991.
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“I'd take it back to Andrei Kanchelskis,” said the Class of '92 prodigy. “I thought he was sensational and, for somebody that arrived at the same time I came to the club in '91, nobody had ever heard of him, really.
“It was difficult because he didn't speak the lingo. He had to come in with an interpreter, but just watching him in that position, in that team of the early '90s that took the Premier League by storm, with either Giggsy or Sharpey on one wing and him on the other.
“He was a joy to watch and the type of player that got people out of their seats.”
Kanchelskis was known for his speed, which helped him soar away from opponents in thrilling fashion. Fans of that generation will remember his famous goal in the 1994 FA Cup semi-final replay against Oldham Athletic, when he zipped across the field past countless defenders, and also the run he made to win United's second penalty in the final, against Chelsea.
But Thornley revealed Andrei was also incredibly strong – especially when it came to his shooting power.
“The lads who played with him will tell you he had one of the strongest right foots they'd ever come across,” Ben explained.
“I once witnessed him doing about 25 kick-ups with a medicine ball in the gym! On the sly, I tried it afterwards and nearly broke my ankle doing one! 
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“It was unbelievable, honestly. I watched him do it, because I was doing my rehabilitation with my knee at the time. I wish I'd never done it now; it probably set me back about three months!
“But he was an incredible player, he really was, and probably if circumstances had been different, he would have stayed at Old Trafford longer.
“He's a fantastic lad as well. We had him as a guest on the MUTV Group Chat and he's been everywhere. I think he's managing in Uzbekistan at the moment, but what a player he was at the start of United's glory years.”