Devil in the Detail: Alex Demarco

Name: Alex Demarco

Year of Birth: 1994

Home town & country: Balzan, Malta.

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

I’ve supported United for as long as I can remember. My brother, who is seven years older than me, was a huge United fan growing up so I just kind of wanted to do what he was doing and started supporting them too. My father and his family are all Spurs fans and he tried to convince me to switch sides a couple of times when I was young, but I got hooked on United from an early age and there was no turning back.

First match you ever remember seeing?

I can’t remember one match in particular, I do remember different moments, though. I have a vague memory of my brother recording the presentation of the 1998/99 Premier League trophy after we beat Spurs 2-1 on our camcorder (!), although unfortunately I don’t remember that night in Barcelona. I also clearly remember watching United vs Lille in the Champions League back in 2001 when Beckham scored a last-minute penalty – it was the first time I had been allowed to stay up late to watch an entire mid-week match!

First match you actually attended?

First match was at home to Spurs in October 2010 and I’ll never forget the feeling of walking up to Old Trafford for the first time after so many years dreaming about it on TV. The whole day was a surreal experience for me and it got even better because we won 2-0, Vidic headed in the first goal and then Nani scored by passing the ball into an empty net after Gomes decided to put the ball down for a non-existent goal-kick. It’s amazing how much quicker the 90 minutes pass by when compared to watching it on TV.

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

To be honest, my main influence came from watching so much football on TV and just trying to copy what the likes of Beckham, Giggs and Ronaldo did. However, when we were younger, my brother and I were constantly playing football against each other indoors and I was always determined to be better than him, despite the seven-year age gap.

Did you idolise any particular player as a kid?

This one’s a bit of a weird answer but my first idol was Karel Poborsky! I don’t even think I knew who he was back then, I just saw that he had really long hair and for some reason decided he was good! That didn’t last very long though and I started to idolise David Beckham, I was heartbroken when he left, but then a certain Cristiano Ronaldo came along and Beckham, much to his dismay I’m sure, had been replaced.

Who is your current favourite player?

Antonio Valencia. I thought his days at United were numbered a couple of years ago, but he’s made the right-back position his own and is an absolute beast. What amazes me is that, when he gets into a crossing position down the wing, he’s done the same trick for the past 10 years or so, but defenders still find it so difficult to stop him. He’s one of our most consistent and reliable players but he doesn’t seem to have any airs and graces about him, he just gets on with his job and he’s been a fantastic signing for the club.

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

Cristiano Ronaldo, by far. He’s just an unbelievable footballer and just seems to get better every year. Even when he was still developing at United in the early years, you could see the talent that he had at his disposal and even though he lacked end product at times, he made things happen and got the crowd on their feet. His performances and goals during the 2007/08 campaign were just on another level and back then I thought he’ll never have a better season than that. He showed me…

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

I loved watching Ronaldinho play. Between, I’d say, 2003 and 2006, he was simply untouchable and played the game the way it should be played, with a smile on your face. He made everything look so easy and did things with the ball that most other players could only ever dream of. His performance against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in 2005 is my one of my all-time favourites, and the fact that the Madridistas gave him a standing ovation says it all.

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

Harry Kane. He’s the complete striker in my opinion and his goal record speaks for itself. He seemed to come out of nowhere, then people wondered whether he was going to be a one-season wonder but I think he’s put those doubts to bed since.

Most memorable occasion following United?

Without a doubt Moscow 2008. Besides the fact that I’d always wanted to see United lift the Champions League having been too young to remember 1999, the final in Moscow was a roller-coaster of emotions. It would have been harsh on Ronaldo if his penalty miss handed Chelsea the trophy, thankfully Terry felt the same way and slipped when it mattered most. I think I’m still a bit hoarse from seeing van der Sar deny Anelka. Seeing Sir Bobby Charlton up on the podium for the trophy presentation on the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster was moving.

Worst memory following United?

The end of the 2011/12 season, Aguero etc. Moving on…

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

I’d love to see Ronaldo back at Old Trafford, but even with unlimited funds that seems a bit unrealistic. If not him, then Paolo Dybala. He’s quickly becoming one of the world’s best players and I can see him leaving Juventus in the near future, plus we’ve still got the number seven shirt vacant.

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

I wouldn’t say ‘support’ but I do enjoy following teams around Europe, mainly Lyon, because they’re fun to play with on FIFA, Napoli because I want someone who isn’t Juventus to win Serie A and Atletico Madrid – the perennial underdogs.

What is the best United goal you have ever seen?

Hard to pick just one, but I’m going to go for Robin van Persie’s second goal against Aston Villa the day we won the league in 2013. Even now it’s hard to believe Arsenal sold him to us to begin with, he single-handedly won us the title that year and everything about that goal – the pass from Wayne Rooney, the technique to take the shot first time and the way Brad Guzan remained motionless – was perfect.

What is the best thing about being a Red Devil?

That even when we’re going through a supposedly tough time on the pitch, as we have been since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, we’re still able to attract some of the biggest players in the world. Having said that, I’m glad that some of our academy players, such as Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, Axel Tuanzebe and Joel Pereira are still being brought through.

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

Liverpool, they’re just deluded. Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea in the 2013/14 season is one of my favourite Premier League moments.

Have you had any chance encounters with players/managers/celebrity fans?

Back in the summer of 2000 my parents and I had a pool membership at a nearby hotel and we decided to spend the day by the pool.  As we parked the car, we saw David Beckham walk right past us and into the pool area! We walked in and realised that the entire United team was staying at the same hotel so we were basically swimming with the whole team. I have a photo with Beckham up on my bedroom wall, even though I was so nervous I look like I’ve got a really bad stomach ache. He was a genuinely nice guy and was more than happy to wait for us to fix our disposable camera to take a photo with him. I’ve met Gary Neville quite a few times as he loves it here in Malta and visits quite often. He organised a testimonial dinner here a few years back and I was lucky enough to get tickets where I spent the night talking to Jesse Lingard and Larnell Cole. I also managed to get photos with Denis Law and Eric Harrison, it’s fair to say I’ve been quite lucky!

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

I’ve played football my entire life and made it to the lofty heights of the Maltese 1st division, although I did have trials with Plymouth Argyle and Ipswich Town when I was 13. I’m currently on a Pep Guardiola-like sabbatical.

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

I love following FourFourTwo, I buy the magazine every month and pass time at work by reading all their online articles.

Favourite food/drink?

Few things beat a nice barbeque meal by the beach.

Favourite TV show?

Toss-up between The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. Both incredible series that left me hooked from the first episode.

Favourite movie/movie star?

Tough one to call but I’d probably say the Usual Suspects is my favourite film whilst Ed Norton is a brilliant, brilliant, actor.

Favourite book/author?

I recently read a book called Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano which was quite unreal and it’s since been turned into an amazing TV series.

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

I was in Georgia (the country) a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it there. Good food, lots of drinks and beautiful views, plus it’s ridiculously cheap. A pint costs 60 cents!

If you were single and could have a date with anyone, she would be?

Keira Knightley stole my heart in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

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

I think Ronaldinho, Ed Norton and Bob Marley would be a fun combination.

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

Unfortunately, I can’t see us winning either of the two competitions. I think we’ll finish second in the League whilst I could see Mourinho sneaking us into the Champions League Semi-Finals.

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).

de Gea – Neville – Vidic – Ferdinand – Evra – Beckham – Scholes – Keane – Giggs – Ronaldo – van Nistelrooy.