How Andriy Shevchenko convinced Manchester United to sign the best striker in Europe

Sports

Andriy Shevchenko is familiar to English audiences from his subdued spell with Chelsea but he was on Man United’s radar years before his £30m transfer.

Shevchenko, playing against United in 2004 friendly in New Jersey

Giant inflatable footballs wrapped in the Champions League star hovered at dusk in the Manchester skyline and the terraces were painted in the familiar colors of red, white, and black.

Only on this night, the colors at Old Trafford were shared by the red and black of AC Milan and the black and white of Juventus. The tifo the Italians brought in 2003 colored a grey final that ended goalless after 120 minutes.

Red and blue Mancunian schoolboys have dreamt of scoring a European Cup final-winning goal at Old Trafford but the only man to have had the honor was born in Dvirkivshchyna and had to be evacuated with his family following the Chernobyl disaster.

At the Scoreboard End, occupied by the bianconeri of Juve, the striker stared down Gianluigi Buffon, looked repeatedly at the referee Marcus Merk, barely blinking, waiting for the whistle. The ball went one way and Buffon the other.

Herbert Kilpin, the Northampton-born founding father of AC Milan, vowed they would be a team of devils: “Our colors will be red like fire and black like the fear we will invoke in our opponents.” Andriy Shevchenko did just that over seven years in Milan.

United supporters would have preferred it if Shevchenko was more clinical in 2005 final in Istanbul, where he hit Jerzy Dudek at point-blank and his pitiful Panenka penalty completed Liverpool’s comeback in Istanbul

Shevchenko was a shadow of the Ballon d’Or winner on his next appearance at Old Trafford with Chelsea in 2006, burdened by a £30million transfer fee and being foisted on Jose Mourinho. That night, Shevchenko hit the second tier of the Scoreboard End.

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