Giuliano Maiorana doesn’t hesitate to criticise the management of Sir Alex Ferguson – a treasured icon at the Theatre of Dreams – and is very open about his early retirement, at the age of just 24, somewhat as a result of the Scotsman’s decisions.
Read Man Utd recently looked at the story of Maiorana’s career at Old Trafford. Tipped to be the next George Best, the footballer-turned-carpenter was previously playing non-league football for Histon, before a trial he didn’t believe was real. However, following our take on his career, Kane Brooker has spoken to the man himself, to get an insight into the ‘Italian stallion’.
Having fallen out with Sir Alex Ferguson while pushing for a place in the starting XI, it was this disagreement that ultimately led to his injury and subsequent retirement. “I was not nurtured into being a professional footballer like most of the other players,” he said. “Most went to the School of Excellence as 13/14 year olds, whereas I wasn’t even playing Saturday football until I was 18.
“When Manchester United signed me I was 19, I had never played for a professional club and wasn’t conditioned for it. All my football idols were Italian, sporting shaggy black hair and stubble. Ferguson shouted at me to cut my hair and be clean shaven, but I thought I’d gone up to Manchester to play football, not join the army. I did have my hair cut, but it seems it was too late. Pathetic really, but that’s how it was. I soon got injured, and game over. The thing is, my hair wasn’t even that long! I retired in 1994, and shortly afterwards Ferguson signed [Karel] Poborsky.”
Maiorana later spoke to the manager long after his retirement, and wasn’t too keen on a reunion. “I bumped into him at my scout’s funeral,” he continued. “In truth, I was hoping he wasn’t going to be there. To be fair to him, he went out of his way to say hello. I’d rather had bumped into him anywhere but a funeral though, so I could’ve asked him a few questions. Questions that have been dangling over my head for 20 years.”
Looking back on his retirement at the tender age of 24, Maiorana admitted it was a tough time. However, he doesn’t hold any grudges over Dwight Yorke – the Aston Villa player featuring in the reserve squad who would end the Italian’s career, prior to a move to Manchester himself – and has caught up with the former Trinidad & Tobago national team number two.
“I didn’t cope that well after retiring. I received no help from the club, and had to fight my own demons for years. I hated football for it all, and to some extent the club too. When things are going well everybody pats you on the back. But when it all goes wrong, they disappear.
“I spoke to Yorke during the 1993/94 season. He said to me that although he’d injured me, he wasn’t that kind of player. I replied that if I thought he’d have done it on purpose, he’d have seen me a few years before! Strangely enough a few years after I retired, the player who ended my career signed for United. I have no grudges though.”
Maiorana had a brief spell in Sweden, but soon returned to England to join Newmarket Town. It was Histon’s manager Alan Doyle who helped get ‘Jules’ to Manchester for a trial, and despite leaving on good terms, he opted against a move back.
“Yes, you could say I left Histon on good terms. However, I played for Newmarket because that’s where my brother was playing at the time. I moved to Sweden because David Wilson – another Fergie Fledgling – was playing there. He phoned me asking if I wanted to play for Ljunskille, so I went over for a medical and stayed there briefly. My ambition was to go and play in Italy, but obviously that didn’t happen.”
Despite only a handful of appearances for the Red Devils, Maiorana was tipped for a bright future with the club. Soon being branded as the new George Best, the winger found it overwhelming to just be mentioned alongside the club legend.
“A lot of United’s left wingers get associated with George Best, but it was an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as him! You ask if I think I could’ve reached similar heights? Whilst at the club, some fans came up to me and asked “You play for Manchester United, are you any good?” My response was always that it wasn’t down to me to say if I was any good, it was down to people who have watched me play. But unfortunately I only played a handful of games for the first team. The fans who came to watch me play in the reserves week in week out could probably answer that question, and also the defenders that had to mark me. All that I can say is that I believed in my own ability.”
When Maiorana began to play for Histon, the teenager had no aspirations or goals within football, and didn’t expect any form of a career to emerge, however brief. Considering his past, he continued: “I had no career goals when I was at Histon because I was 19 and thought I’d missed the boat. I was enjoying my football at the time and let my feet do the talking. When I heard United were watching me, I thought it was a massive wind up.”
However, when reflecting on his career, the presence of Ferguson remains looming. While a difference was opinion was a major factor in the stagnation of his Manchester United career, Maiorana believes there was a little more to the story rather just than his Italiante styles. When asked whether he believed his playing time for limited for other reasons, he responded:
“Definitely. People inside and outside of the club told me so. I was playing well in the reserves, yet sometimes being dropped and playing in the A side. I asked for a transfer request, although Ferguson wouldn’t let me leave. So I rotted in the reserves for a season, which led to the turn of events.”
While it is now every young boy’s dream to become a professional football, with success highlighted by wealth and fortune more than ever now, things weren’t so easy for Maiorana following his move to Manchester.
“It was a rollercoaster ride for me,” he said when speaking about his initial move to the club. “I signed a four year contract on the second day of my one week trial. Just six weeks later I was playing for the first team, and I found it hard having a lot of time on my hands. We started training at 10, and were finished by 12.30. I had no one to visit and nowhere to go. Living in a house full of footballers, we were regularly eating English meals, whereas I was used to my mum’s Italian food. It was nothing like it is now, with 19/20 year olds living in mansions. I ended up renting a very small flat for £200 a month.
Initially signing a four-year deal with the Red Devils, Maiorana stayed at the club for six years. And despite his restricted gametime and involvement with the reserves set-up, retirement was never a possibility prior to his injury, and even after.
“I never wanted to retire, and I was playing well after having knee surgery. Ferguson tried persuading me to retire at the end of the 1992/93 season while I was still on crutches. It took me too long to become a professional, and I didn’t want to let it go. Because I had “one day you’ll play for Italy” and “you’re the next George Best” ringing in my ears, it made it much harder for me to hang up my boots. It would’ve been easier for me if United would have released me because I wasn’t good enough.
“It would’ve made my life a hell of a lot easier.”