Former Manchester United midfielder, Juan Sebastian Veron, has given an interview outlining what went wrong for him during his time in England.
The Argentine midfielder was a majestic technical midfielder capable of the sublime. It was quite a coup when Sir Alex Ferguson convinced him to swap Italy for the Premier League.
Nowadays it is self-evident that the English league is a bigger draw than Serie A, but this was not always the case, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The former Lazio midfielder signed for a then-British record fee of £28.1 million and got off to a flying start, scoring four goals in eight games and subsequently winning the Premier League Player of the Month award.
La Brujita, as he was known, put in some impressive displays in the Champions League for the club as well and scored a few sumptuous goals in Europe.
However, despite a positive start to life in England, his performances dipped after his first season and he was subsequently sold to Chelsea in 2003, just two years after arriving at Old Trafford.
His form drew much criticism from the English media but one person who always had his back was the legendary former manager.
In typically passionate style, the great Glaswegian manager told the media when they questioned the Argentina’s international inclusion in his team, “On you go. I’m not f—— talking to you,” he said in May 2002. “He’s a f—— great player. You are f—— idiots.”
Veron himself knows that in spite of his wonderful talents, he could never transfer the form he showed in Italy and for his national side to the Premier League. According to the player, there was a key reason for this.
Speaking to Four Four Two, the former Argentina international revealed, “In Italy I managed to have a more stable spell, but I know that my time in English football wasn’t the best,” he said. “If there was one thing that played against me, I’d say it was the physical conditioning.”
“I was used to the Italian way, which was key for our game, but in England during that time, the physical conditioning was to play games. I wasn’t used to playing without an intense preparation, and it wasn’t ideal for me in the long term.”
As a result, the more games he played, the worse he played as his body was not used to the lack of recovery time.
It is unfortunate that the silky central midfielder could not adapt to the rigours of English football and it would have been much better if he had played a decade or two later.
Another major issue the former Estudiantes player had was the competition and tactics in place at United at the time.
The Red Devils, like most English teams of the era, largely played with a two-man midfield and when you have Roy Keane and Paul Scholes to choose from, even someone as talented as Veron would struggle for gametime.
“I know that people expected a lot from me in England – and I did, let me make that clear. Perhaps it was something related to the characteristics of the players; if the club really needed me, in a position where there were decent options already. To make things work for me, the side – which was doing well – had to be changed.”
As he alludes to, it is no coincidence Veron prospered in a three man midfield in Europe but felt the team had to adapt to him in the more traditional tactics of English football.
The former midfielder claimed that despite the high standards his manager demanded, he could never quite match them.
“At some points, I wasn’t able to give him everything he expected from me consistently. He got it in a few matches but not in others, and if you want to be a great player, your game has to be stable. I couldn’t deliver it at Old Trafford.”
All in all, the player’s time at the club was a failure despite winning the league title in 2003. He never reached anything close to his levels with only flashes of his awe-inspiring best.
The former player has no regrets however and in his own words, “I’ll never regret joining Manchester United. I wish I’d stayed there longer.”