UTD Unscripted: The Day I Invented A Goal
To me, it’s always very important to be creative.
Throughout my life in football, I have always loved to play as a no.10, behind the striker, because it gave me freedom to think more and create more during the game. All the way through my career, whenever I have the ball, I am trying to have two or three options available to me at any one moment. Once you have those options it’s important to make the right decision at the right time.
You have less and less time to do this, though. The game has changed quite a bit. Everything is happening so quick that you don’t have time to think about it, especially in the Premier League because the pace is very, very high.
If you’re going to think for more than a second, two or three players are on you. Someone is tackling you, someone is trying to intercept the ball, so you have to do everything as quick as you can. Whatever situation you are in, you don’t have the luxury of thinking too much, so you have to try to make your decision as quick as you can. That is the case anywhere on the pitch, whether you are in your own half deciding which of your team-mates to give the ball to, or if you are in front of goal and need to shoot.
Like I said, I like to be creative and I like to try new things. Especially in training, you can try things that you would never dream of doing in a game. There is less pressure, more time. But every now and then, even when you are in a game, even when you don’t have time to think about it, you can do something creative and crazy in a fraction of a second.
That happened to me on Boxing Day in 2016.
United were beating Sunderland 2-0 and the stadium was already very happy. I think perhaps the supporters were buzzing because it was Christmas, their team was winning, so they all had better feelings. It meant Old Trafford was more loud than usual.
They were even louder when I scored to make it 3-0, but I had no idea what had happened.
I remember Zlatan had the ball on the right-hand side and he crossed it into the box. If he had put the ball in front of me, I might have had time to think, to control the ball, to wait and decide what to do with the chance. I might have missed!
Instead, the cross was behind me. I had no time to think or decide what to do with the ball.
There was only one option for me.
Try to score with the backheel.
As the ball went into the net, I didn’t even really realise what type of goal I had scored; I just knew that I had scored because the ball was in the goal. In that moment, it was very difficult to think how it happened, how the ball had got there, so it was a bit unexpected for me. The crowd was so loud, my team-mates were saying things to me and shouting and laughing but I couldn’t tell what they were saying because I was just in shock.
It wasn’t until after I went home and I started watching the goal on YouTube that I realised what I’d done. I was just like… wow.
Straight away, everyone was talking about the scorpion goal.
Everyone was joking that Zlatan had taught me to score that type of goal, because he’s the king of the backheel goals. Even though he got the assist, I actually think he was very jealous that he didn’t score it.
(I’m just kidding, Zlatan!)
The more I watched the goal back, I was very shocked. You don’t score those goals every day, or every month or every year… I was very proud of that goal. It was definitely the best goal of my career so far and it was a pleasure for me to score it for Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Old Trafford has seen all types of amazing players and big trophies, and a lot of beautiful goals too, but my goal was one of the ones that was missing in that stadium.
It was funny that a week later, Oliver Giroud scored a similar goal for Arsenal. I didn’t see it at the time because I think we were on the train on our way to play West Ham, but I’m not going to say mine was better than his or his was better than mine because they were different settings, different crosses, different backheel shots. Maybe I inspired him, but when I moved to Arsenal we didn’t talk about it. We weren’t trying to fight or discuss whose was better, because these goals are the beauty of the Premier League. They make the game more beautiful.
I haven’t tried to score a scorpion goal again since, not even in training. Not yet, anyway. I hope in the next few years I can have the opportunity to try again and if I can score one more of those goals it will be amazing. If not then I know that I have scored one already.
Of course, I moved to Arsenal from United and I went back to Old Trafford twice as a visiting player. It was a little strange in my first game back when I scored against United, not long after leaving the club. It was only the second time in my career that I scored against a former team of mine – I had done it once before in Ukraine – and I didn’t celebrate either time. I’m not the type of guy who’s going to celebrate against his former club because I had a very good time at Old Trafford, a great time in Manchester. I won three trophies in a very small time, so I’m very thankful to everyone at the club, the fans, the players and the staff.
I can say that if I score against United again in the future, I will keep my emotions under control and I won’t celebrate again. Even if it’s a scorpion kick!