Ok, full disclosure: this article might be *slightly* gushing as I’m a bit of a Manchester United fan.
I was growing up during the mid-to-late 90s when Fergie’s treble winners were in their pomp and I used to stare at the TV in wonder as the likes of Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Ruud van Nistelrooy lifted title after title.
I was taken in by their swagger, their history and the potent mix of their juggernaut-like success combined with the nostalgic romance that engulfs United to this very day. As a Scot, they’ve always been my English team.
So, I didn’t need to be asked twice when adidas offered me the opportunity to be a guest at the club for the weekend as they launched their new £750 million world record-breaking kit. And like Celtic star Leigh Griffiths dashing for the tea cakes when his mum comes in with the shopping, I was down the M6 quicker than you can say Bebe.
I arrived in the evening, and was shown to my room at the plush Midland hotel in the city centre, before being told by an adidas rep that they couldn’t give me any details of where we’d be going or what the event specifically was; I wasn’t even allowed to know the details of the location. It was all very mysterious and suspenseful.
Along with other invited guests, I boarded a coach outside the hotel and expected to arrive at Old Trafford imminently. I had my boastful Twitter and Facebook posts ready, I just needed a picture of the Theatre of Dreams. But it became clear quite quickly we were heading elsewhere, as the bus veered into a nearby industrial estate. We stopped at a converted warehouse and were given strict instructions that we couldn’t give ANY details on social media of where we were…as if I knew?!
The place was decked out in all things adidas; there was no expense spared.
There was free food; a free bar; Man Utd memorabilia from when adidas last sponsored the club in the 80s; PS4 consoles complete with FIFA; there was even a range of different arcade games – like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man – again representing the previous adidas/United partnership.
It was like I’d died and gone to football heaven.
We were treated to the mesmeric warm-up act F2 freestylers and, before long, it was midnight. Surprise guests Phil Jones and Daley Blind emerged from the crowd and clambered onto the makeshift stage decked out in the team’s brand new threads. I managed to get a photo with the duo and I asked Jones who he thought would look best in the new shirt.
Me! Can’t you tell I’m an absolute baller?!
I was in stitches. Class from Phil.
When I got back to my hotel room – still buzzing from the whole experience – I found a surprise sitting on the end of my bed: A bag stuffed full of Manchester United’s new training kit. Shirt, fleece, shorts, socks, boots, the lot. I’d be needing it, as it transpired I’d be training the next day at Carrington under the watchful eyes of Bryan Robson and Denis Law.
I was ready. Well, as ready as I’d ever be. It still wasn’t sinking in that in a couple of hours I’d be training at Carrington amongst United legends – football legends!
I had all of my new kit on – a deep blue uniform, with the club’s piercing red as trim.
I was given these garish, bright yellow samba-style football boots. I’m more of a black boots kinda guy, old school, but I made do. When we arrived at the complex, the sheer size and class of it hits your straight away. There was indoor pitches, outdoor pitches, floodlit pitches, even a four-star restaurant! We were training inside on the crisp, air-conditioned surface.
First-team coach Tony Strudwick took us for a (hellish) warm-up, before Robbo got down to some more technical drills and passing exercises.
The session was complete with a 5-a-side tournament and United first-teamer James Wilson even joined in. He and Robson couldn’t have been nicer, with Wilson happily chatting away to everyone and throwing in the odd wisecrack.
The day – and possibly my life – was complete when I scored a goal in one of the 5-a-side games and a watching Robson said:
Nice finish, Dan.
As the session ended, I spotted Denis Law chatting to folk at the side of the pitch and so, being a Scotsman through and through, I asked him for a photo.
Me: Mr Law, please may I have a photo if it’s not too much trouble?
Him: You’re the most well-spoken Weegie I’ve ever met. How de ye hide that accent around all these Englishmen?! Course ye can son.
As I posed for the photo, Mr Law – Scotland’s joint all-time top scorer, a European Cup winner and one-time European Footballer of the Year – muttered in my ear:
Whit du reckon for the World Cup draw? I reckon we’ll do this lot at Wembley!
I started to honestly wonder if this was a dream. If it was, I’d have no way of telling. Thanks you very much, adidas. You gave this grown up child a weekend he’ll never forget.