During one of my recent YouTube trawls I recalled a brilliant back heeled effort by Lee Sharpe, playing for Manchester United against Barcelona (I was compiling this list of great improvised finishes). This led me to a collection of all Sharpe’s Manchester United goals, immediately transporting me back to the 1990’s. I didn’t enjoy United during Sharpe’s era, mainly because they were so good, and my own team, Watford, were so bad. My Mum, a United fan, would tell me how it hadn’t always been like this, but that didn’t matter, all I knew was their success contrast against my despair. To compound matters, my Dad decided to jump ship from Arsenal to United. He never officially declared this, he just started cheering for United when he was watching them on TV. Oh, and he wasn’t averse to making the odd four hour drive up to Manchester with my Mum. That’s a long way to go in a Fiat Uno. What an example to set, eh?
Anyway, Lee Sharpe epitomised United’s new found swagger. He was full of pace, skill, and arrogance. And, to top it all off, he was good looking too. Given all of that, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy watching this wee hommage, but I did. It was impossible not to. If you showed this footage to a teenager today, they would probably assume Sharpe had been one of United’s best talents during the 1990’s, and one of England’s. These days he’s more likely to be remembered as a waster, which is sadly true, but in his pomp he was a fine player.
I remembered his hat-trick at Highbury in the League Cup that announced his arrival on the big stage; the highlights of that game were recorded onto VHS for posterity by my Mum. Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but even the cringe inducing goal celebrations are more amusing than they were first time around. Ok, that might be stretching it, but they’re better than Robbie Keane’s cartwheel. Leaving Sharpe’s considerable vanity to one side, there is an obvious love of scoring goals on show here. You can’t imagine Sharpe being too cool to smile like Thierry Henry. When Sharpe scores, it’s party time – hands in the air, goading the crowd for more adoration, and lapping it up with a huge grin on his face. He loved it. You can be churlish about such displays, call it arrogance, or criticise superstar egos, but as a fan, these are the players that can make watching a match worthwhile.