Wes Brown interview: Former Manchester United defender on Jose Mourinho, Roy Keane's captaincy and Class of 92
Wes Brown, a five-time Premier League winner with Manchester United, speaks about the 'Class of 92', his admiration for Roy Keane, Arsene Wenger's departure and more.
From two Champions League winners' medals to Championship football to Kerala Blasters, Wes Brown has come a long way. The no-nonsense English defender has played 362 times for Manchester United — the club he grew up supporting — for 16 trophy-laden years. He won the treble in his first season at United and is one of only two men, alongside club legend Ryan Giggs, to be in the squad for both the 1999 Champions League final and the success they achieved in Moscow nine years later.
He left United in the summer of 2011 having won 14 trophies to join Sunderland and then Blackburn Rovers before eventually travelling 5,142 miles to keep alive his love affair with football in India. The 38-year-old defender played for Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League (ISL) in a side managed by his former United coach Rene Muelensteen and that also comprised of teammate Dimitar Berbatov.
Firstpost sat down with the five-time Premier League winner for an exclusive interview in Bangalore, where he spoke about the Class of 92, admiration for Roy Keane, Arsene Wenger's departure and more:
You were the part of the treble-winning season with United and it was your first season (first team). Talk us about the '99 team.
I played the last two matches of the season before (1997-1998) when Arsenal won the Premier League. The manager thought of bringing new faces in and I managed to be one of them. The next season was probably the most special season I’ve ever been involved with, considering the achievements and obviously winning the treble. For me, it was the best experience I have ever had as a footballer and I was so young but I was so happy to be a part of it and to see all first-hand as a player. It was really really special.
Being an academy graduate what is that one thing about the ‘Class of 92’ which sets them apart?
Well, I think when the manager first brought them, there were a lot of pundits doubting that these kids can’t win so many things together. It just shows how much the manager thought about his players. He knew from the start that they were special players and that they could do it if given a chance and they proved to everyone else that they could as well. It made such strong bond in the team and then obviously different players coming in from all over the world to make the team stronger as well. 1992, was one of the special years for Manchester United.
Also with United dressing room having players full of strong personalities, what were the important lessons you learned when you broke into the first team?
I think it (strong character) has always been Roy Keane because he was the prime example (of a strong leader). He is the best captain I have ever worked under. He was a winner. He knew what was the best for the team. He knew what we needed to do. If someone was having a bad day, he’d make sure they knew about it (in order) to get themselves up for it. He was a sort of captain where you would want to work hard for him as well. Just like the manager, he knew what it was to win games. It was hard work and not just the ability that was always the core side of Manchester United coming through.
After Sir Alex retired, United have struggled a bit. But do you think Mourinho is doing a good job? Are you a fan of the Mourinho style of football?
Yeah, it’s getting better every season. We’re moving and we are second in the league at the moment. We are in the final of the FA Cup. Everyone would’ve loved them to do better but City have been the best team this year without a doubt. They deserve to win the league. United are slowly getting there and I’m sure when the season is over, the gaffer will know what new faces he wants to bring in. Maybe some might leave I’m not sure but he’ll know what the team wants. There have been games where we have been absolutely unbelievable but (in some games) we’ve been off the pace a bit. It’s been on and off, on and off all season which is a shame because the manager and players don’t want that. But like I said, it is progress and United are going in the right way.
Are there any similarities between Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex?
Personally, I don’t know obviously in the changing room, so I cannot answer that but I’m sure the manager understands what Manchester United means. It’s not just a football club, it’s (a) worldwide (brand) and he'll understand that. I'm sure he has said that many times. The pressure is very high but at the same time, he will get the lads back to winning ways.
How difficult is playing in the Premier League as a young centre-back? Because there’s a lot of demand for ball-playing centre-backs in the Premier League these days.
It’s really hard. When I came in as a tall, skinny kid, I was a young man playing against grown men. We were playing against some of the veterans of the game. When you play for 5, 10 or 15 years you do learn. In football, you always learn. The only thing I can say to help if you do make a mistake is you’ve got to try and learn from it quick. In football, as quickly as possible. I wanted to do things at the right time. Not just pass it and blast it out. Just simple things. You know you’ve got split seconds on the pitch to decide what you have to do. The quicker you can learn, the better you become. (You become) More consistent.
Lastly, Arsene Wenger is finally leaving the club after 22 years but do you think he could’ve left earlier?
Arsenal over the years have had some fantastic teams. He’s got Arsenal where they are now by winning stuff and making good teams. Obviously, there’s a lot in the press (that Wenger should leave) and a lot from the fans as well. But I think he’s been a brilliant manager. Sir Alex and Wenger have always had a great rivalry where the teams have been really good. They’ve got the best out of their teams. Recently, it’s not really gone Arsenal’s way but it doesn’t mean it can’t change. I think he’s been fantastic for the club and its a shame he’s leaving, but everything comes to an end in that sense. It's a shame that some of the fans have gone on his back a little bit. But I’m sure when they look back, they’ll appreciate everything that he’s done for his club.
So, the final part. It’s going to be the ‘Rapid fire. Five questions
Mourinho or Guardiola?
Your hardest opponent?
United’s 1998 team or the 2008 one
Ooof! I’ve gotta go for 2008 because I played in it.
Ferdinand or Vidic?
Oh my god! Depends on whether we are tackling or going out with the ball. If we are tackling, Vidic. If we are manipulating the ball, Rio.
So, lastly. Ronaldo or David Beckham?
Skills Ronaldo. Crosses Beckham.
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