UTD Podcast: The fans understood me
With the return of crowds on the horizon, legendary forward Mark Hughes has spoken about the impact the Manchester United fans had on him in his playing days.
The Welshman, who, bar brief spells at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, played for United from 1980 until 1995, was speaking on UTD Podcast, which will be available to download on all your favourite podcast platforms from Monday 12 April.
Hughes was signed by United as a 17-year-old old and spent three years in the club's youth system before making his debut under Ron Atkinson.
"I had immense pride for playing for Manchester United and wearing the number 10 red shirt. It was really special to me," he told presenters Sam Homewood, Helen Evans and David May.
"I had a real affinity with the club. I joined when I was 14 and bar a couple of years when I left, I was here until I was 31."
Football without fans has proved to be a different sport. Games can suffer from the reduced intensity and big moments can feel a little more hollow than they otherwise would.
Hughes revealed that he was a player who particularly thrived off the crowd.
"I always used to think I could sense when they thought we needed to get a grip," he explained, "and I used to try and be the catalyst for that.
“I could sense the crowd wanted us to be more aggressive, for something to happen, for somebody to put a tackle in to get them going as well.
"Some players like to block the crowd out and just play within the white lines whereas I went over the lines as well to get a sense of how the crowd was. I think the United fans understood that's what I was doing. I was trying to amplify what their feelings were on the pitch.
“I always had a great relationship with the United fans in that regard; they understood that when I played for United I'd always play my best.”
Hughes won trophies in both of his spells at United; first, an FA Cup under Ron Atkinson in 1985 before a flurry of silverware arrived under Sir Alex Ferguson, but he spoke in particular about the night of celebration after United were crowned champions for the first time in 26 years.
On 2 May 1993, Aston Villa suffered a shock defeat at home to Oldham Athletic and that result left United as champions. The Reds played Blackburn Rovers at home the next evening.
"Goodness me, we'd been in Brucey's house until about four in the morning so we weren't in great shape to be honest," Hughes laughed. "We turned up here [at Old Trafford] and there were hordes and hordes of people outside. Everybody was delighted that we'd finally been able to do it. That night was just a night of celebration from our point of view.
“The one thing that Blackburn did wrong was score first, so it sobered us all up and we thought ‘hang on a minute, this is our night, not their night’, so we just put the afterburners on.”
Giggs, Ince and Pallister scored to cap off that night of celebration, although Hughes ended as the club's top goalscorer for the season.
You can listen to the rest of the Hughes interview from Monday, but all previous UTD Podcast episodes are available now.