When Dwight Yorke joined Manchester United from Aston Villa in August 1998 for a club
record £12 million, the doubters amongst the Old Trafford faithful were
numerous. United's search for a top class goalscorer throughout the summer had
led to nothing but dead ends. Salas, Batistuta and Kluivert had all eluded
United's grasp and Yorke was the player to benefit. However the Trinidad
and Tobago international had never been recognised as a consistent goalscorer
and many wondered what extra qualities he would bring to United. 12 months
later all the doubts have been silenced as Yorke contributed hugely to
United winning the treble. But his move to Old Trafford very nearly didn't happen.
Seldom has any transfer been so drawn out as Yorke's move from Villa Park.
Rumours that United were first interested in the striker first surfaced in
July 1998, following the World Cup in
France. But any possibility of a deal was lengthened as Villa manager John
Gregory put a staggering £16 million pound price tag on the striker.
United refused to break the British transfer record for a player with only
one year left on his contract. An £8 million pound bid did follow
however but was dismissed by Gregory who labelled it "an insult" to the
player. The deal looked dead and buried at that stage, especially as the
Champions' League player registration deadline on August 20th was looming.
However the deal was resurrected days before the deadline as the player
himself indicated he wanted to move to United. Following that
announcement Villa were powerless to stop him and on Thursday, August 20th
United broke their previous transfer record for the second time in 3 months
to bring the striker to Old Trafford.
He made his debut in United's second league game of the season at West Ham and
had a quiet 90 minutes. A fortnight later however he began the process of repaying
his massive transfer fee, scoring two goals against Charlton Athletic on his
Three days later it was three goals in two games for Yorke, as he scored again
against Coventry. His United career was off to a flier and the only issue now
was who would partner the new signing. Cole and Solskjaer had already been
paired with him, with Solskjaer proving the early front runner with his
two goals against Charlton. Against Barcelona at Old Trafford in September,
Solskjaer led the line with Yorke and in a blistering first half United stormed
into a 2:0 lead, Yorke pulling the Catalan's defence apart with his excellent
skill, movement and ability to hold up play with his back to goal.
The goals continued to flow for Yorke as the season panned out and in Europe
especially, he was revelling. Goals against Bayern Munich, Brondby and Barcelona
launched him to the top of the goalscorers charts in the Champions League.
It soon became obvious just why Alex Ferguson had commented that out of
all the strikers United had faced in recent years, Yorke had caused them the
most problems. And now that he was being supplied by players of the quality
of Beckham, Giggs and Scholes, he was flourishing.
But it was the partnership he developed with Andy Cole that really brought
out the best in Yorke. Great friends off the field, they have an
almost telepathic understanding on it and combined to score a host of
memorable goals throughout last season. Over 50 goals were scored between them,
Yorke grabbing a total of 29 in all competitions.
Included in those 29 were a hat-trick at Leicester City, a brace of headers
against Inter Milan, an exquisite chip over Ed de Goey at Chelsea, a last
gasp equaliser against Liverpool in the FA Cup and a vital equaliser against
Juventus in Turin.
Since the retirement of Eric Cantona in 1997 Manchester United have lacked
a spark of genius in their frontline. Teddy Sheringham was brought in to
try and plug that gap but wasn't the right kind of player and didn't succeed.
The arrival of Dwight Yorke has ended that long search and in tandem with
Andy Cole, Manchester United now possess one of the most potent attacking
partnerships in Europe.
£12 million? Peanuts....