There are few players in Manchester United history revered as highly as Andrei Kanchelskis; the Russian winger played at Old Trafford from 1991-1995 and illuminated the right hand side before his acrimonious departure.
In an interview for the book You Can’t Win Anything With Kids, which we worked on and helped to promote, Kanchelskis revealed for the first time the story behind his transfer to Everton.
The story began shortly after the Christmas 1994 game with Leicester City; Kanchelskis scored a fantastic goal in a 1-1 draw, in keeping with his outstanding form that season. However, the winger then endured a spell out of the team after suffering an injury which seemed to be disputed by the club.
“During the summer there were a lot of rumours going around, and to be honest, it did upset me a bit,” he admits. “That is not to say that the paper talk affected me. I still got on with my job. Leading up to my move, I was in my prime and wanted to do my job and when the club labelled me as someone who had become uncommitted in the previous season, this is what really upset me. The fact is that during that season I was suffering from a double hernia and the club did not acknowledge this. Instead, outside physiotherapists diagnosed me when the club didn’t really acknowledge it as an injury. This obviously took a toll on my performance and during the season as I was getting used to the recovery process, the performances faltered.”
In other accounts elsewhere documented – and sure to be covered in the player’s forthcoming autobiography, released tomorrow – Sir Alex Ferguson received a large payment from one of Kanchelskis’ representatives and the club were concerned about clauses in his contract, and it seemed as if the contentious argument over the injury was the final straw.
“The situation was not ideal for the club or the manager so in the end with some advice from third parties in friends and agents, I thought it was best to move on to another club and prove to all and most importantly to myself that I could still play like I did during the majority of my Manchester United career,” Kanchelskis says. “With this injury scenario, and the rumours, alongside advice from various people, yes, I did want to leave. I was still young and wanted to prove myself as a world class footballer and with relationships turning sour at United, I thought that another club would give me another chance.”
The player maintained his silence on the move for over twenty years though it became one of the most heavily discussed in United’s history. “At first, yes it annoyed me, because it’s never nice to have your life talked about and debated like that,” Andrei admits. “However after a while I got used to it and I knew myself that some of the talk was pure fiction and only rumours. I then learnt to ignore it and even laugh it off in the end.”
Kanchelskis moved to Everton where he spent two years before he moved to Fiorentina. He later played for Manchester City but even with that in mind, and the nature of his exit, he enjoys a favourable reputation with United fans. For the book, Andrei was asked if he could have stayed at United. “Yes of course and in truth the manager and club still wanted me to play for United,” he reveals. “However with the injury saga, advice from various groups of people and my young (to an extent) naivity I thought it was best to move… In hindsight, yes, a part of me does (regret it).That is not to say that I did not enjoy the other clubs I played for and I still like to think that I had a very successful career. However, thinking about it more now, it is hard to imagine me being at United for much longer and be a one club man like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and co. After all, I really did enjoy my time at United and both me and my family were more than happy with our lives in Manchester. If the injury saga didn’t upset me so much and if I had different advice, I could have a longer career at United.”
He says that he has happy memories of his time at Old Trafford. “I look back on my time there with fondness, of course!” he emphasises. “It was my first club outside the USSR. It will always be a special time for me and to this day I have followed everything United. Due to my time at United, I managed to become a fully committed supporter of the United cause.The supporters during my time were fantastic to me and I really did appreciate their support.The fans were terrific. I remember how Old Trafford used to vibrate with all the emotion the fans gave the team. Home or away, it really didn’t matter, the chants were there and the emotion was always portrayed. Off the pitch, the fans were really nice to talk to as well. I am glad that during my time at United I managed to adapt so quickly to the English game and the club really did help me with this. All aspects of the club made my career. From the supporters to the lunch lady, each part made me the player I was at United. I will always be grateful to United for this.”
To buy You can’t Win Anything With Kids, the diary of United’s 95/96 season with the full exclusive interview with Andrei, as well as another exclusive interview with Darren Anderton, the man who was rumoured to be his replacement, go here.
Andrei’s autobiography ‘Russian Winters’ is published tomorrow and also available from Amazon.