Interview: Former Manchester United player, Giuliano Maiorana.


NOTE: you can read the Spanish version here.
NOTA: pueden leer aquí la versión en español.
Life can be unpredictable and no one can say otherwise, if we are truly honest. The unexpected strikes and we cannot do anything but obey to its demands; you can ask Giuliano Maiorana. Son of Italian parents, he is a former footballer that had the chance to play for Manchester United in the late 80s after proving his trade at non-professional level. Once heralded as the new George Best, Jules, as he was known in England, had the bad luck of being stroke down by a serious injury, sidelined him for a long time and never recovering from that.
Despite that and a lot of negative events afterwards, Giuliano has found peace regarding his footballing past and he can now look back with a much more balanced opinion of it all. I can say that he was an extremely friendly figure, answering all my questions and being a real gentleman during the entire process. And as a United fan myself, I cannot stress how much of an honor it was to interview someone who wore the shirt. Yes, Giuliano didn’t play a lot at the club, but he wore the shirt of the senior team, played at Old Trafford against Arsenal and alongside the likes of Robson, Cantona, Giggs or Hughes. No one can take that from him.
KT: first of all, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview, Giuliano, and welcome to La Soledad del Nueve.
GM: Thanks for asking me for this interview for La Soledad del Nueve. Always a pleasure when people are interested in my short career.
KT: let’s start from the beginning: How did you start to play football? Who were your idols as a kid and what inspired you to say “I want to become a professional footballer”?
GM: I started playing football as any normal kid did. Always loved playing from an early age. My idols were the Italian footballers like the 1982 World Cup winners. As I got older it was Maradona, who I think is the best player ever to play the game. Every boy who played football had inspirations of one day being a professional footballer and I wasn’t no exception.
KT: you rose to prominence due to your signing from Sunday League outfit Histon to Manchester United. For those that may not know about it, could you tell them how was to play in England’s lower leagues back in the 80s?
GM: Histon were actually a Saturday football team. I didn’t start playing Saturday football until I was 18. Before then I played for my dad’s team called Italcamb, meaning Italians from Cambridge. We had a very good team and started from the lowest league, we got promoted to the top tier around Cambridge. We won that league and many other cup competitions, we were the only foreign team in Cambridge and there was a lot of racism back then, so to achieve what we did made it even more pleasurable to us.
KT: nowadays, you have players coming from the non-professional leagues and getting important roles in the Premier League such as Jamie Vardy, Chis Smalling, Dele Allí or even Harry Kane. Is it a testament to how much talent goes unnoticed in the lower spectrum of England? What can you say about it, being a former lower League player yourself?
GM: You need luck in whatever you do in life. I know of some players who were talented but didn’t make it into pro football. Like I always say: right place, right time. I was 19 years old when Utd signed me. I thought my chance to become a pro were past me. Then I got that luck myself.
KT: your name obviously shows that you are from Italian family. Did you or do you feel more Italian than English? Did you have dreams of playing in the Serie A and with Italy’s national team?
GM: Yes I certainly am Italian and always classed myself as one. I’ve never had a British passport and both my parents are Italian. I was brought up as one. My ambitions were to play in Serie A and my dream was to play for Italy. But my injury threw all my dreams out of my life when I retired at 24.

KT: can you tell me how your signing to Manchester United happened?
GM: On a freezing Wednesday night Histon played Chatteris Town. After the game I got told an Utd scout was watching me. I thought it was a joke. On the Friday I got told they wanted me to go on a week’s trial. The thought was scary, being a 19 year old who got told by a lowly Cambridge Utd team that I wasn’t good enough to play for them, on a few occasions. I got told on the Saturday that Utd definitely wanted me on a trial; I was hoping it would be in a few weeks’ time. The next day I got a phone call from Histon telling me I had to get up at 5am to go to Manchester the next day for my weeks trial. I woke up that morning feeling very nervous. The manager of Histon drove me up. We were late due to a lot of traffic on the M6. Just before we arrived I thought I’m glad we’re late because I was tired and it wasn’t the best preparation for my first day of the trial. When we got to The cliff I was told they hadn’t started training yet as they were waiting for me. I couldn’t believe my ears. We had a training game and they were much better than anybody I’d played against before. The next night (Tuesday) I played in Ian Handyside’s testimonial with the first team which I didn’t even think I’d be playing in. I started the game; I was taken off at half time and got offered a four year contract at halftime. Basically it took 6 days from being told Utd were watching me to signing a four year contract. Then I was in the first team 6 weeks later. Proper roller coaster ride.
KT: how was the everyday experience at United? Back in those days, the club wasn’t doing very well and there was a heavy starve for success.
GM: There was a bit of tension at the club. It can be understandable such a massive club and being starved of success for such a long time. Day to day life at the club was fine. The majority of the players and staff were decent people. With football as soon as you walk on the pitch you either absorb the pressure or you can fail. The beauty of the game is you don’t need to talk with your mouth; you let your feet do the talking.
KT: in previous interviews you mentioned the somewhat ambivalent relationship you had with Ferguson. Why do you think it never clicked between him and yourself?
GM: My relationship with Ferguson was ok at first. Then it became not so good for silly things. He’d start moaning about stupid things. Cut your hair which wasn’t even that long. Have a shave, which I only had a stubble. Being Italian and dark skinned I’d have to have a shave every morning. Shouted at me for not wearing socks whilst wearing shoes. Shouted at me for wearing t-shirts under my top during games, which explained I wore to absorb the sweat. Ironically everyone now wears them. Also when I retired he signed Paborsky who had his hair way down his back. A lot of other things. I’ve been bought up to respect people who respect me. I’m not a rude person or mouthy. He tried to mold me into a robot. I wasn’t like most players. I was me. I thought that you don’t have to lick arse to get to places if you believe in your own ability. Then I got injured. GAME OVER!!

KT: how was Ferguson on a personal level? Why do you think he has been so successful during so many years?
GM: Think I answered some of those questios in my last answer. Regarding his success nobody can deny what he achieved here in England. There’s a question mark over his head in Europe though. I think he was lucky with the fact that there weren’t many great managers in the league for a long time. Nowadays you have Pocchetino, Mourinho and now Guardiolas on his way. Controversial what I say, maybe. That’s my honest opinion.
KT: looking back on your career, would you have done anything different in that period of animosity with Ferguson and you were playing heavily in the club’s reserves? Was perhaps a different approach from the manager necessary to make you succeed?
GM: To succeed at anything, at any company you’re face has to fit. If it doesn’t you’re losing a battle that can’t be won. I tried to prove my worth on the pitch. A lot of fans and people at the club were confused why I wasn’t being picked for the first team. You can’t change the past, so no, I wouldn’t change anything. I let my feet do the talking on the pitch. That’s what being a pro footballer is, doing your best in training and in games.
KT: you played alongside some of United’s aristocracy: Robson, Schmeichel, Neville, Scholes, Bruce, Irwin, Cantona, Sharpe, Giggs, Whiteside, Hughes, etc. What memories do you have of sharing with those footballers? Any special anecdote?
GM: Most of the players at the club, first team, reserves and youth team were good people. We all got on regardless who was playing in the first team. I always say although we were Man Utd players, most were normal human beings. Not egoistical like I think most players are nowadays. We had time to talk to the fans. Now they train at Carrington and I’ve been told you can’t get near the players anymore.

KT: you started at football during a very particular and difficult time for England and its league due to the Heysel and Hillsborough incidents. How was to live the days of hooliganism as a footballer back in the day on the pitch, off it and how was the general mood during those years?
GM: When I played against Millwall at OT I got the train down back to Cambridge after the game. When I got on I noticed straight away it was full of Millwall supporters going back to London. It was very scary but I had my head down and luckily they didn’t recognize me. I was very thankful when they got off an hour later at Sheffield. It was a scary time for football, as the hooligans were running wild back then.
KT: then came the change to the Premier League and the general reconstruction of the country’s football league. What can you say about those early days of what is now the biggest and most successful league of the moment?
GM: The change to the premiership didn’t do much for me for obvious reasons. My main concern at that time was trying to get back to full fitness again.
KT: you were nicknamed as the new George Best in your first matches at United. Nowadays, you see kids having huge amounts of pressure and being branded as stars since they are 17 or 18, but you already experienced something similar in the late 80s. Did the pressure have a negative influence in your future, was the club expecting something better from you or it wasn’t like that at all?
GM: Yes, being nicknamed the next George Best, couldn’t feel more privileged. I suppose it’s a Man Utd, left wing thing. Regarding being nervous, it wasn’t like that for me fortunately. Like I’ve said, you cross that line onto the pitch and let your feet do the talking. You sink or swim in situations like that. When I came on as a sub for the first time, it was nerve wracking thinking of the prospect of playing in front of all those fans at OT. Once I was on the pitch though I didn’t panic and tried playing football. Outrageous considering only 6 weeks before I was used to playing in front of 50 people.

KT: you ended up leaving United to play for the Swedish side, Ljungskile SK, which, to be honest, is a very rare option for someone of your background. What made you choose that team and what can you say about that particular experience in Sweden?
GM: I went to Sweden because David Wilson (another Fergie Fledgling) was playing out there. He phoned me up and that’s how I ended up playing for Ljungskile.
KT: do you feel that you have unfinished business with football? Injuries never respected you. Do you have plans or goals of involving once again with the game?
GM: My plans with football ended in 1994 when I retired. I haven’t got any unfinished business, because the business side I loved was playing the game. Sadly I washed my hands with football back then. Today isn’t the same game that I grew up to love when I was younger. So I’ve got no intentions in the future of being involved with the game. That’s the past now. A very long time ago.
KT: for the younger generations, how were you as a player? Which were your specialties and best traits?
GM: As a player I was like an old style winger. I tried different skills. I tried doing things that the defenders were not expecting, to surprise them in a way that so I got past them. I loved dribbling with the ball, backheel, flicks and overhead kicks. I liked doing things like that for the people who were watching the game, to excite them and try to get them off their seat.
KT: any advice you can offer to the young people reading this that may aspire to become footballers or even football managers?
GM: The only advice I can give to younger players is enjoy and try, train hard and express yourself.

KT: what is your opinion on football right now? Is it better or worse compared to what it was in your time?
GM: I could be here all day answering this question. Football was a much better game years ago in my opinion. You had wingers instead of wing backs. Most teams had very good and skillful wingers. Wing backs are more athletes than footballers. Football is more about athleticism, running up and down the pitch for 90 minutes, having one or two touches and passing the ball. Years ago it was more individual with many skillful players. Nowadays I’ve noticed average players being picked instead of a skillful player because their work rate is better. They prefer athletes than footballers. Years ago you had 8 footballers in a team and two athletes. Now there are eight athletes and two footballers.
KT: which teams do you like right now?
GM: Don’t really support any team, never really have. I support Italy when they’re playing, and I want Italian teams doing well in Europe. I used to look out for the results of Avellino when I was interested in football years ago. They are now in Serie B. That’s where my parents are from in Italy and where most of my relations are.
KT: thank you for this lengthy interview, Giuliano. Where can the readers follow you on social media? Any message to our readers?
GM: You’re more than welcome for this interview Kevin. Have to apologize for the time it took me to finally finish it. If any of your readers are interesting in following me I’m on Twitter. Not too sure they will because they’ve probably never even heard of me 😀 Peace & love!
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