Devil in the Detail: Harshal Patel

Name: Harshal Patel

Year of Birth: 1993

Home town & country: Kolkata, India

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

United have been the only club I’ve ever supported, apart from a brief flirtation with Real Madrid (more on that below!). I have a very vague memory of an uncle telling me about the treble-winners and the manner of the Champions League win, and an even blurrier memory of him showing me the highlights of that game. From then on, I’ve been a Red.

First match you ever remember seeing?

The first game I have a clear memory of watching on TV is the “Battle of Old Trafford” in 2003, with Vieira’s sending off and Ruud missing his penalty.

First match you actually attended?

Sadly, haven’t attended any games yet.

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

It’d probably have to be Cristiano Ronaldo. His first season at Old Trafford was the season from which I started watching football regularly, and I remember trying to replicate what he did on the pitch, the heel chop in particular. I got half-decent at it too, managing to pull it off more often than not!

Did you idolise any particular player as a kid?

Ronaldo’s predecessor as our #7, David Beckham. Living in India, a cricket-crazy nation, there wasn’t the extensive coverage of football there is today. Beckham was one of the very few recognizable faces, and given that he played for United, I took an instant liking to him. I actually half-supported Madrid for a bit when he went there, although thankfully I soon saw sense!

Who is your current favourite player?

Probably Michael Carrick. I’ve always been a fan of calm, measured central midfielders, and as I’ve learnt more about how the game is played, Carrick’s ability to pick a pass and control the game has always amazed me. Plus, he’s an absolute gentleman off the pitch, which helps his cause too.

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

Ryan Giggs, without a doubt. Most appearances for the club, the sheer number of trophies he’s won, and for his loyalty to the club. He wasn’t just a passenger either; he contributed decisively every year, and the ability to reinvent himself when he grew older, but still keep up in terms of performance levels…phew. What a player.

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

Zinedine Zidane. I still remember the goal in the Champions League final, and that too with his weaker foot. Zidane was an absolute genius, and I was gutted when he was sent off in the 206 World Cup final. But the cheek to try that penalty, against Buffon, in a World Cup final? Only one man could have done that.

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

There’s two: Harry Kane and Kevin de Bruyne. Kane’s evolved into the complete forward; the sheer variety of goals he scores, along with the volume, means that I’d love to have him at United. As for de Bruyne, he’s the complete midfielder. Runs the game, can dribble, pass and has got a knack for scoring big goals. Probably the reason why City will win the title.

Most memorable occasion following United?

Has to be Moscow 2008. The culmination of a beautiful season, league title #17, Ronaldo’s 42 goals, Giggs breaking Sir Bobby’s record, Ronaldo’s header and subsequent penalty miss, Terry’s slip (ha!), Van der Sar’s save…Need I say more?

Worst memory following United?


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

Leaning towards two Italians from Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne and/or Jorginho. Insigne is just magical, he’s scoring and assisting for fun over the last couple of years, while Jorginho is the perfect replacement for Carrick, probably even an upgrade.

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

I have a few teams I want to see do well: Napoli, Dortmund, Atletico and even Spurs. They’re all well-run clubs with good, young, exciting players; probably the image of where I wish United were right now.

What is the best United goal you have ever seen?

Rooney’s overhead kick against City. He may have shinned it, but the match, occasion and timing of the goal still make it pretty special.

What is the best thing about being a Red Devil?

It used to be winning, but I’ve always taken pride in the fact that the club do so well with regards to youth and the academy.

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

Has to be Liverpool. They clearly need to change a lot of things if they want to be successful again, but their fans are deluded enough to think that they can still win things going the way they are. ‘Pool fans are insufferable, especially when they start sermonising about us and other clubs spending money. Chelsea aren’t too far behind though; their recent successes have given their fans (at least the ones I know) a sense of entitlement that even United fans don’t have.

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

Well, it wasn’t a one-on-one encounter, but about three years ago, the Premier League had a fan event in Mumbai, where they screened a number of games, and flew down former players. The highlight of that weekend was the United vs Liverpool game (the one we won 3-0 at Old Trafford), and both sets of fans made the atmosphere sound like a stadium. Robbie Fowler was representing Liverpool, with Peter Schmeichel from our side. Fowler had an autograph signing session a couple of hours before the game, so of course, us United fans came together and started chanting at him, “Have you seen Fowler win the league?” He tried his best to stay calm, but eventually turned and flipped us off, prompting a huge cheer. That, plus the result, made it one of the best evenings ever.

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

I played a bit in school, but that’s about it. Played left-back, right-back, centre-back, and centre mid, so I was probably the O’Shea of the team! Did score a thumping left-footed volley once, about the only time I’ve done anything with that leg on a football pitch!

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

I really like the Guardian’s football coverage.

Favourite food/drink?

I like my pasta, and a rum and coke with a dash of lime.

Favourite TV show?

Game of Thrones and FRIENDS

Favourite movie/movie star?

I don’t really have a favourite movie star, but I love Christopher Nolan’s movies. The Dark Knight trilogy is something I can watch hundreds of times.

Favourite book/author?

The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson; these three off the top of my head.

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

The Hong Kong Disneyland; it was brilliant, especially for a Star Wars fan like me.

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

The ‘if’ isn’t hypothetical in my case, and it would probably be Jennifer Lawrence. She’s stunning and quite funny; the best combination.

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

Sir Alex, Steve Jobs, and Christopher Nolan. I’d love to see how the conversation between three such different individuals would flow.

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

I think we’ll finish second; City look to have too big a lead, and too much squad depth, to give up the lead. With a little bit of luck, I can see us making the quarters in the Champions League. Anything more is a bonus.

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, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Scholes, Carrick; Beckham, Giggs, Ronaldo; Rooney