When Manchester United came to train on Norfolk village green
- Credit: Archant
Playing fields and village greens have played host to thousands of aspiring young footballers through the decades, but on one sunny day in 1991 it was their heroes who took to the turf in one Norfolk village.
On March 29 of that year – Good Friday – the Memorial Playing Field in Hethersett was taken over by English football royalty in the shape of the Manchester United first team.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils were due to face off against Norwich City at Carrow Road the following day, and decided to take part in a light training session on the field for some last-minute preparation.
Residents gathered to watch on as the likes of Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and revered captain Bryan Robson – by that time in the twilight of his illustrious career – showed off their skills and prepared for a showdown with the Canaries.
One of the interested onlookers that day was Malcolm Morrison. He said: “The team was staying at Park Farm Hotel and word got out that they were planning a light training session on the Memorial Playing Field the day before their match at Carrow Road.
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“The news spread like wildfire throughout the village and there was a big turnout when the coach arrived and Bryan Robson, the captain and also captain of England, led the team onto the pitch.
“I was impressed by how tall the defender Gary Pallister was and by the size of the calf muscles on most of the players. Bryan Robson generously spent time signing autographs after the training session.”
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Also involved were the likes of former City defender Steve Bruce and a fresh-faced Ryan Giggs, who had made his league debut earlier that month.
New signing Andrei Kanchelskis, however, who had joined Ferguson’s side three days earlier in a £650,000 deal, was not involved and would not make his United debut until the penultimate game of that season, against Crystal Palace.
The training session in Hethersett proved to be the perfect preparation for the Manchester club. A brace from Bruce – his second in as many matches – and a Paul Ince strike saw the visitors coast to a 3-0 victory, the same scoreline by which Dave Stringer’s Canaries had lost when the two sides met at Old Trafford three months earlier.