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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

To be immortalised in Manchester United song after Anfield goals still gives goose bumps

'Diego, wooah, Diego, wooah; He came from Uruguay, he made the Scousers cry' still gives Diego Forlan goose bumps every time he hears it, recalling his Anfield moment ahead of Sunday's United v Liverpool match.
Diego Forlan celebrates with teammates Ryan Giggs, centre, and John O’Shea, right, after scoring against Liverpool for Manchester United at Anfield in 2002. Paul Barker / AFP / December 1, 2002
Diego Forlan celebrates with teammates Ryan Giggs, centre, and John O’Shea, right, after scoring against Liverpool for Manchester United at Anfield in 2002. Paul Barker / AFP / December 1, 2002

Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. He currently plays in Japan for Cerezo Osaka. Forlan’s column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.

My sister re-tweeted something which I saw last week. It was from a Manchester United fan who said they were practising for their game at Liverpool this Sunday by singing about me in their game v Spurs.

The song goes: “Diego, wooah, Diego, wooah; He came from Uruguay, he made the Scousers cry.”

I’ll be honest; I get goose bumps every time I hear it. I can be in Brazil or Uruguay, Japan or Spain watching a United game on television and hear it.

It is so flattering.

I’m not Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or another United legend, nor am I the only player to have scored at Anfield, so it feels a privilege to be remembered.

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I recall how I was getting so few minutes in the team before United played at Anfield in December 2002 that I really wanted to enjoy the game.

I was training but not playing, but something happened that day that would make it one of the greatest moments of my life and still be sung about to this day.

I scored two as United beat Liverpool 2-1 away.

I started because of injuries. It was not an easy game to start in and the first half was difficult; I didn’t see much of the ball and couldn’t get it.

It was so intense and I thought I was going to be substituted, but it all changed in the second half.

The intensity level dropped a little – it would have been impossible to continue as it was – and we started to get chances.

I saw the ball going to goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek and he missed it. I ran onto it and put the ball into the net. My confidence surged. For the second, it was a shot from further out.

This time, I ran to the away end and the fans went crazy. Faces looked like they going to explode.

My teammates were delighted, for the team and for me as they knew I’d had a tough time. Stewards rushed forward to push us away from the fans.

Ryan Giggs, who set me up for the goal, told the stewards in bright orange jackets where they should go.

I repeated what Giggs said. Nobody was stopping us enjoying this moment. Nobody.

I wanted to jump over that fence and get in with the fans, which is not responsible, but I was so happy and my adrenaline was pumping.

When I’ve retired from club football I plan to go in that end with the United fans behind the goal.

I’ll put a hood up and keep my head down – not everyone in Liverpool would be delighted to see me. But I can’t sing about myself. Someone else needs to score two that day.

Liverpool did all they could to draw, but we held on. I went into the dressing room and Gary Neville was the first to come up to me as we celebrated.

He looked me in the eyes and said: “Maybe you don’t realise what you have just done, but they’ll never forget you here after that.”

I always remember that. I knew there was a big rivalry, but I didn’t fully understand it. I was a guy from Montevideo, how would I?

But I began to understand the importance after that, from the reaction of the players and the travelling fans behind the goal. Gary was right.

I’ve seen Dudek since. He was a good goalkeeper, but we never spoke about that.

I should mention Liverpool fans. In 2010, I played there for Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final.

They booed me, which I understood. I scored the goal in the first leg in a 1-0 win and it was 1-0 to Liverpool in the second leg. It went to extra time.

Liverpool scored after 95 minutes. They were going to the final ... until I scored in the 102nd minute at the Kop end.

I went crazy, but not in an inflammatory way. It was an important goal to score. Fans gave me a lot of abuse but at the end of the game they applauded me. Thousands of them, even though they were hurting. Good football people and a historic club, I respect them.

I’ll look forward to the game on Sunday, a huge match between fourth and fifth in the table.

Both teams need to finish in the top four. Liverpool are playing better than United at the moment, they’re winning by fighting, they beat Manchester City with two great goals.

They’re at home, too, so they’re favourites.

United have Wayne Rooney, their key player, doing well, but they need more than quality to win there.

You need effort and a little bit of luck, maybe a goalkeeper dropping a ball.

United must be ready to take advantage. I was.

Diego says watch out for...

Liverpool v United is huge, but the clasico also takes place on Sunday, at Camp Nou. Leaders Barca are the form team and Real Madrid have struggled since losing that derby 4-0 against Atletico. Losing Luka Modric, James Rodriguez and Sergio Ramos to injury hasn’t helped, nor has their strikers scoring fewer goals.

Barca are not clearly better than Madrid, as they were three years ago. It’s a great team with three brilliant strikers, but one still coming together.

But Madrid are a caged tiger who are always dangerous if you let them out. Give Modric or Isco space and they will kill you, especially on a counter-attack. If Madrid score first it will be very difficult for Barca to win.

sports@thenational.ae

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