Devil in the Detail: Bob Priestley

Manchester United

Name: Bob Priestley

Year of Birth: 1992

Hometown & country: Whitehaven, England

How long have you supported United, and how did you first get interested?

As long as I’ve been aware of football, I think it was when I was about 6 or 7. My Dad is a massive United fan and basically didn’t give me any other option. He said they were the best team and at that age, you’ll always listen to what your Dad says.

First match you ever remember seeing?

I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’ve watched so many season review videos from the 90s that I can’t remember what’s true and what’s real anymore. There’s video footage of me watching a game in about 1995, so factually, I guess it was whatever game that was. I have a feeling it’s a cup final.

First match you actually attended?

The Munich Testimonial match in 1998. I literally only just discovered this wasn’t Cantona’s testimonial. Manchester United 8-4 European XI, Eric played for both teams. Gascoigne was there! But I have absolutely no memory of this, beyond the view from my seat and the fans loving the goalkeeper, who was (I can tell you this after researching it) Pascal Olmeta.

The first league game I went to was the following season, the 1-1 draw with Arsenal in February 1999. We were behind the goal in the family stand and I’m guessing we went because of my birthday. Again, I have very little memory of this. Video games melt your brain kids!

In relation to football, who influenced you the most growing up?

If this question means, who encouraged you to get interested in football, definitely my Dad. He took me to the under 8s football I started playing in, started a five a side team with some other kids from my school and encouraged me to watch United.

If it means, what footballing personality most influenced the way I see football and the way I think it should be played, unsurprisingly, it’s Sir Alex Ferguson. Growing up he was on his way to being the best manager ever, of course, now he unequivocally is. He moulded United in his image and I think the club should always aspire to repeat that. Winning is fine, but developing your own players and playing beautiful stuff for the fans is what football is all about.

Did you idolise any particular player as a kid?

David Robert Joseph Beckham. I always wished I had his hair. Sadly, I’m not blessed with those luscious locks, so I had to settle for playing football like him. That didn’t work out either, so I had to settle for his business acumen. You can see where this is going.

Who is your current favourite player?

We have a few players I’m a big fan of, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and more recently, Eric Bailly. But I’m going to pick Marcus Rashford. His utter joy at being able to play for United when he first broke through was really endearing and he’s already one of our most important players. He’s lightning fast and beats people for fun, but it’s becoming clearer each day that he has brilliant footballing intelligence. And he can pick a pass. And he can take free kicks. God, he’s dreamy.

Who is your all-time United great, and why?

If we’re sticking to people I’ve seen play, Cristiano Ronaldo hands down. When he was at United he was the definitely the best in the world. He gave me so many amazing memories: the free kick at Portsmouth, destroying Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final and all those 42 goals in 07-08. I can’t wait until the inevitable season he’ll return to us when he’s 38 or the poorly thought out managerial reign in 2031.

If we’re talking about ANY player, definitely Eric Cantona. I often think I would never be bothered if I met a famous person or player, but I think I might faint if I met The King. He has that aura around him. Without him, there’s no way United become the global force they are today. Plus, he was alright at football.

Which non-United player from the past did you most admire, and why?

Ronaldo, El Fenomeno. When I was younger I didn’t watch too much European football, but I did watch World Cup 98. Like the other games from when I was really young, I don’t remember specifics, but I knew that Ronaldo was very, very good.

By the time 2002 rolled around, I knew about the final in 98 and that he’d put on a bit of weight. People had written him off. But he won that tournament on his own. He was unplayable. To come back from the injuries he’d had and become top scorer on the way to winning a World Cup was incredible. At that time I’d never seen any other players who were that good. Simply one of the best strikers of all time.

Which current non-United Premier League player do you admire (or fear)?

Kevin De Bruyne. I think most people might say this, he’s on a different level at the moment. Sometimes you see a player play for a team and you can’t help but think they should be playing for a better team. He’s playing for the best team in the country and still looks miles better than his teammates.

Most memorable occasion following United?

Watching United vs Midtjylland at Old Trafford with my Dad. United are 2-1 down from the first leg and the squad has a lot of injuries (Carrick is at centre back!). When the teams come out for kick off, Anthony Martial isn’t there! Some kid, that Dad says he has seen play for the under 18s and looked pretty good, is playing up front. But he’s not a striker really. We’re a bit nervous. But you know the rest.

Worst memory following United?

The stupid Aguerooooo moment. I never truly gave in to thinking we had won the league, but I will never, ever forgive Paddy Kenny and Joey Barton. The whole thing only happened because we mucked up against Everton. We’ll never hear the end of it now.

If you had unlimited funds, which current player would you buy for United?

Messi or Ronaldo, because why wouldn’t you buy the best players in the world? I’m going with Ronaldo because I like him so much, but that’s terrible long-term planning. If we’re going to pick a younger player that would be worth the investment, Kylian Mbappe. He looks the business.

Do you support any other team(s) in the UK or Europe?

I couldn’t claim to ‘support’ another team, I can’t get emotionally invested in anyone else. There are a few teams I like to do well: Dortmund, Barcelona, Fiorentina, AS Saint-Etienne, Napoli. Some from FM saves, some because I like the way they play/develop talent or because of who they represent (if you are from a working-class area with working class fans, I instantly want you to do well).

What is the best United goal you have ever seen?

Ronaldo’s counter-attack goal against Arsenal in the 2009 Champions League Semi-Final. Blue kit, Emirates Stadium, Ron runs from one end of the field to the other in a beautiful counterattack that we seemed to score all the time in that era. Fat chance we’ll score a goal like that anytime soon.

What is the best thing about being a Red Devil?

It used to be the knowledge that we were likely playing the best football in the country, but we haven’t done that for a while now. Now I think we have a history to be proud of and how the club represents the city. However, I’m now a bit concerned that the club is too commercial. I know this is the nature of modern football, but I’d rather the club had strong links with the city and the community rather than winning loads of trophies. Hopefully, one day the Glazers will leave and we can have that again.

Which rival club(s) do you despise the most, and why?

Liverpool hands down. The whole Suarez/Evra thing really hammered home how dreadful they all are. You haven’t been good since the 80s guys.

Have you had any chance encounters with players/managers/celebrity fans? Tell us about it.

Sorry everyone, but growing up in Cumbria means you don’t meet anyone famous. Unless you’re talking about David Seeds, the Whitehaven Rugby League legend. I served him once as a waiter.

Do/did you play football to any sort of standard yourself?

I played as a kid but I wasn’t that great. I played in central midfield when I started, then moved wider to the wing and then wider still to the bench. Oh, and my Dad was in charge. I’m a much better squash player. In some corners of Cumbria, they call me The Gunslinger.

Favourite football-related media outlet (other than FMG obviously!)?

Football365. Great site, great writers and great community interaction.

Favourite food/drink?

My mum’s spaghetti bolognaise.

Favourite TV show?

I can’t pick one, so I’ll give a flavour of the stuff I like: The Sopranos, Mad Men, The Thick of It, Peep Show, Alan Partridge (just anything with him in), The Trip, The Mighty Boosh, Arrested Development, Rick and Morty, Bojack Horseman etc

I watch a lot of TV.

Favourite movie/movie star?

Again, I don’t really have a favourite, I like lots of things. But rather than write another long list, I’ll go with Toy Story. If you don’t like that film you’re a broken individual and you need to have a real look at yourself.

Favourite book/author?

To my detriment, I don’t really read books anymore. I’ll go with Harry Potter because I’ve read all of them multiple times and they are brilliant. But I’m much too busy playing video games to read. You’ve got to have your priorities straight.

Best holiday destination you’ve been to, and why?

Norway. We went on a cruise there (no, my age I wrote at the top was not a typo) and it’s an incredible place. It looks like a different planet. No wonder Slartibartfast won an award.

If you were single and could have a date with anyone, who would (s)he would be?

The joke answer here is your mother, your sister or Claire from work. Honestly, I don’t like to think about a world where I’m single. I’m not built for dating. So, considering that this would be a world where, presumably, I’m heartbroken from the breakdown of my current relationship, I would like to date a billionaire. I’ll be a loyal house husband and do absolutely nothing. Become a hermit. It would be brilliant. Maybe she’d let me buy a football club?

Name three guests (dead or alive) you’d love to invite round for dinner & conversation?

I never like this question because it presumes these people would actually a) turn up and b) want to speak to me, which obviously is outlandish. I would like to just list my friends and family, but no one reading this knows who they are. So instead, I’ll go with Sir Alex Ferguson, Frank Skinner and Socrates (either will do). I’ve got a nice blend there. Let’s fire up Use Your Words guys!

Where will United finish this year in the league? And in Europe?

3rd behind City and Spurs. I think we might sneak into the quarter-final of the Champions League with a favourable 1st knockout round draw, but if we play anyone who’s any good we’ll be out. Hopefully, all of this will add up to Jose leaving, I can’t stand him.

Pick your all-time favourite United XI from players you have seen play (so unless you were alive to see big Duncan Edwards play, you can’t include him).

This my favourite, not necessarily the best: Schmeichel; Neville, Stam, Vidic, Evra; Beckham, Scholes, Keane, Ronaldo; Cantona (just), Van Nistelrooy.

About the Author

Bob Priestley
Manchester United fan and writer of 'entertaining articles' or 'a collection of words' depending on who you listen to