It was a particularly short love affair with Manchester United, lasting just 82 games , but Juan Sebastian Veron left a lasting impression at Old Trafford with many Reds fans still wishing he’d never left.
Now 41-years-old, Veron arrived at United from Lazio for £28million in 2001 during his supposed prime, aged. Veron signed a five-year contract and enjoyed a Premier League title-winning season.
The Argentinian midfielder was an instant hit with the United faithful, though his Old Trafford career lasted just two years, scoring 11 goals in that time.
The former Sampdoria and Parma man, who surprisingly excelled in the Champions League, found it painfully difficult to adapt to English league football. After Arsenal secured the double in the 2001-02 Premier League season, leaving Manchester United trophy-less, Veron was famously the subject of a passionate defence from Sir Alex Ferguson:
“He [Veron] is a f****** great player. And you’re all f****** idiots.”
Sir Alex Ferguson
Failing to nail down a first-team spot at Old Trafford, Veron eventually departed Manchester after his second campaign. The Argentinian left for Chelsea for the princely sum of £15million in the summer of 2003, but looking back, he claims that the decision is one of his biggest regrets:
“If I had one frustration it was that I had highs and lows every season. I was never at a high level throughout the whole season.
“But I should have stayed at United and not left.”
Juan Sebastian Veron
Veron accepted that he struggled to adapt to the intensity of England’s top division, explaining that switching from the more-tactical style of football in Serie A was far more difficult that expected:
“Games were intense for 90 minutes. In Italy, it was more tactical and about closing down the games.
In England, the games were more open, the ball came back and forward. It was more physical too.”
Juan Sebastian Veron was a truly fantastic footballer on his day. Unfortunately for Veron, he falls into the same category as other immensely gifted, yet frustrating players that have graced Manchester United over the years – Dimitar Berbatov anyone?
Many United fans will openly admit that Veron was managed very poorly. As fantastic as Sir Alex was at the helm of Old Trafford, he accepted that he made some bad mistakes during his time as manager – not being able to get the best out of the talent that was Veron, surely ranks high on that list.
United harboured an unsettled atmosphere at the time. Roy Keane admitted in his autobiography that he actively bullied the Argentinian, likely spawned out of an envy for the playmaker’s skill.
Veron was so impressive at the height of his powers, Juventus players were famously queuing up to shake his hand after he completely dominated a pre-season tournament fixture between the two sides.
Just two weeks later United had sold him to Chelsea, a move that the Argentinian regretted for the remainder of his career.