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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 home debut.

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....


Patrick Eustace 2000. Last modified on Thurs, 27 Jan, 2000

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REAL AUDIO
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