We can forgive Andrew Cole for spending the beginning of his professional career with Arsenal, back when the Manchester United and Arsenal rivalry was nearing its peak. Along with three successful seasons with the Gunners, he also spent time with Bristol City and Newcastle United before heading to United from 1995-2001.
Acquired in a shock deal for £7 million sending Cole to United, Keith Gillespie was sent in the opposite direction. “Andy” now known as Andrew, joined the reds halfway through the Premier League season in ’95 he still managed to notch 12 goals in 18 league matches. The native of Nottingham was the first player in Premier League history to notch five goals in a single match. In the Champions League against FC Porto, his goal as voted the seasons best after chipping the keeper. United celebrated their fourth as Eric Cantona slipped the speedy frontrunner behind the defense where Cole calmly added to his goal tally.
Retaining five Premier League medals during his career with the reds, it’s safe to say he had a successful career at Old Trafford. Although he was pressured plenty from Eric Cantona, when the man with the popped-collar retired in 1997/98, Cole took over. Andrew Cole took replacing Cantona to a whole new level as he was the leagues joint top scorer (18 goals) and nearly replicated one of Cantona’s most iconic goals – with a heart shattering chip over the Everton goalkeeper.
Upon reception of the ball, the true footballer could shimmy his defender left or right – and finish without hesitation. Even a small sniff of an opening, Cole readily took his chance. Drawing Sir Alex Ferguson to his feet on numerous occasions with acrobatic first touches or bicycle kick goals – Cole knew exactly what he was doing. In my mind, his ability to slow the defender down and then blow past him was astonishing, coupled with his almost standstill stop with the ball at his feet, before he punished the awaiting defender.
Unfortunately, Andrew Cole fell victim to Neil Ruddock in a reserve match against Liverpool, suffering two broken legs. After that, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mainly took over; however, Cole would continue on after his recovery. However, Cole was on the other side of a reckless challenge which practically ended a young talent’s career, in Simon Colosimo. His knee shattering tackle in Australia ’99, sidelined the 19-year-old very promising talent for six months. As Colosimo was in talks of making a move to Europe, Cole’s challenge may have just set-back his career enough to never allow it to come to full fruition.
But, it was full steam ahead of the United man who was the reds top scorer in 1999-2000 with 19 goals, and his fourth league title in five seasons. And the ’00 season would be his last true memorable one for Manchester United as he saw additional competition from Ruud van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes and Solskjaer.