Forlan: I want to go undercover with the fans!
Diego Forlan speaks at length about the emotional bond he still shares with Manchester United supporters, during this week’s UTD Podcast.
The Uruguayan netted 17 goals in 98 appearances, mainly from the bench, for United between 2002 and 2004 and helped the Reds to the Premier League title in 2003.
Although it took the South American 27 matches to break his scoring duck in Manchester, the Old Trafford faithful soon took him to their hearts, especially after a matchwinning double away to Liverpool in December 2002.
That led to a famous chant, which Diego was surprised – and humbled – to learn is still regularly sung by fans almost two decades on.
“They always supported me really well, even in the beginning when I was not scoring goals but trying hard,” Forlan told us via video call from his native Uruguay.
‘Imagine what I can feel in that moment!’Video
“They adopted me and maybe that’s why [they loved me] when I started scoring goals – and at Anfield as well, those were two important goals. It was really good.
“When I was at Villarreal, in 2005, I was with my brother watching Manchester United v Liverpool and they started singing my song.
“Yes, of course!” Diego replied, when asked if he knew the words to the song.
“But I’m really surprised, you know.”
Diego went on to reveal that, prior to football going behind closed doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he and United fan and journalist Andy Mitten hatched a plan to go undercover at the scene of Forlan’s finest moment in a red shirt.
That’s not the only thing the now 41-year-old has on his to-do list once supporters are allowed to attend matches again – he also wants to take his children to a match at Old Trafford so they can hear his name being sung by over 70,000 people.
“Maybe we can’t do it now, it’s difficult, but we wanted to go in disguise and go with the supporters to see [Liverpool v United] but without them knowing it’s me. Maybe in the future we can do it!
“It’s a club that has so much history, with great players and sometimes they sing my song! I’m really proud, thankful – there are so many words you can say that they still sing that song. It’s unbelievable.
“In the future with my kids, now of course they are babies but if I have the opportunity to be in the stadium and they sing my song, imagine what I can feel in that moment and they can understand what is happening.”
Forlan: The goal I tell my friends aboutVideo
Forlan, of course, would eventually go on to become one of his country’s greatest players, winning the Golden Ball at the 2010 World Cup and claiming two European Golden Shoes while in Spain.
The first of those came at the end of the 2004/05 season, after he left United to join Villarreal, and Diego explains that decision came about purely because the competition in M16 was so strong, with the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Louis Saha all available to Sir Alex Ferguson.
“I knew it was difficult, they were great players. In that moment, I was scoring goals, I was doing really well but I knew that I wanted to play more games.
“United were playing 60 games [a season], maybe I was playing 25 games, but not the most important games. There was a moment always between December and February, there were a lot of injuries and I was having more space to play and the opportunity to play more games. But I needed more.
“I was really enjoying my time, I knew I could stay – when I left, I had a contract for two or three years more. Everybody was happy with me, the fans, the coaches, the gaffer. I was doing well and scoring when I had an opportunity. I was getting rhythm.
“But there was something in me: I wanted more. It’s not like I didn’t want the challenge, but I knew, in that moment, the way the team was, sometimes you don’t have that space and maybe you need to go to another place.”