Norman Whiteside has seen it all. He has been there, done it and worn the t-shirt. Norman joined Manchester United in 1982 and made his first team debut at just 16 against Brighton & Hove Albion, becoming United’s youngest first team player since Duncan Edwards. He quickly became a fans favourite as the Old Trafford faithful were convinced they had found their latest talisman in an attempt to dethrone bitter rivals Liverpool. Norman’s rise to the top was rapid and he was included in Northern Ireland’s 1982 World Cup squad as he became the youngest ever player to appear at a World Cup. He went on to make 278 appearances in the famous red shirt, winning two FA Cup medals along the way. To this day, he still holds the record of the youngest player to score in an FA Cup final and the youngest player to score a senior goal for Manchester United. This week, I managed to speak to Norman about Manchester United, as well as the ongoing Oasis/Blur debate…..
Hi Norman, thanks for taking the time out to speak with me. Despite the defeat in the FA Cup final, United have their highest league finish in the post Alex Ferguson era. Would you agree that there has been progress this season?
Hi. Yes, indeed an improvement over the last couple of years. However, I still feel we are just short of the flair and excitement we have become accustomed to over the years. Having said that, we are headed in the right direction though and I am hopeful we can win our title back in the not so distant future.
The United fans, as ever, have been fantastic again this season. Just how important is that connection with the fans for success on the field?
Very important indeed. Our fans are superb and our away support is magnificent. I loved the connection with the fans and still do through the social media platforms such as Twitter. Sometimes, in the modern game, it is difficult for the players today because of security, etc. It is slightly different to my time but I think it is vital that the players do not lose touch with the fans.
If you could pick 2/3 Manchester United players outside of your time to play with; who would they be and why?
1.Nemanja Vidic. He is your typical rock solid defender. No nonsense. He had a great understanding of the game and he was vital to United’s success at that time. I would have certainly loved to have had Nemanja in our team. He would have made our job a bit easier!
2.Eric Cantona. Eric was a special player. He could do things with a ball that others simply, could not. He had it all in his locker: the creative flair, the vision. A special, special player. He played the game in a way we had not seen before. I would have loved to have lined out alongside Cantona.
3.George Best. His name says it all really. He was the Best!
Who do you think are the leading candidates to replace Michael Carrick as Manchester United captain?
David De Gea. David is a leader and would be a popular choice by both his team-mates and the fans, I think. He is key to any success we may have in the future.
There are a lot of rumours about transfers at the minute: Alex Sandro, Fred and Toby Alderweireld, to name but a few. Who would you like to see in a Red shirt next season?
Kylian Mbappé. He is one player I love to watch. His pace is frightening and I would like to see him in the same team as Romelu Lukaku. He has two great feet and isn’t afraid to take his man on.
You played in two world cups with Northern Ireland. Who do you see as the teams to beat for the upcoming World Cup?
As usual, I think Germany will be there or there abouts. They will take a bit of stopping. They have the pedigree at international level and they look like they are strong all over the field.
Finally, the most important question Norman. Oasis or Blur?
Oasis. All day.
I have to say as a huge and lifelong Manchester United fan, speaking to Norman was pretty cool. I found him a pleasure to deal with from start to finish in an attempt to get this done. Norman continues to give back to the fans through social media and is always good to reply to United fans.