Former Manchester United and England Footballer Andrew Cole is a footballing great, the second-highest goal scorer in the UK's premier league, a player who has swept all possible honours in the English game, including the PFA Young Player of the Year award, a coveted UEFA Champions League title and caps for his country. These days he is an ambassador for his former club Manchester United and we were lucky enough to catch up with him on 3 August when he headed into town to host the Abu Dhabi SummerFest football festival. He gave us the inside scoop on Manchester United's new manager David Moyes and, girls, he is still friends with former teammate David Beckham!
Welcome to Abu Dhabi, Andy! You are a regular visitor to our region with the Man United soccer schools, is it important to you to develop the skills of young players in our region?
Kids love football here and there are a lot of really good young players. If they want to play football in England, they need to learn how to adapt to the English game, with the weather being a massive component. It's fantastic out here and I really, really enjoy working at these soccer schools
Are you a fan of the UAE Pro League and would you consider working at a football club in the UAE like Maradona and Sven Goran Eriksson have?
I’ll be honest with you; I don’t know that much about the league. I know there are some talented individuals playing in the league and we always like to work with talented individuals. It's obviously very different from the European leagues and would take some adjusting to, but never say never.
Your son Devante is also a professional footballer and part of the Manchester City Academy. Are you worried about how the money that young players earn might affect them?
You’ve got to worry about them. These are young people with a big salary. They need to be educated in the way they act and learn not to just go out there and splash the cash and think that each week they will just get more and more. Their salaries need to be more structured in football clubs, they need to do more to help them and educate them. These players start work at a young age and get given a contract, and then they have to figure out how you go about that in the world. Then they keep going and get another new contract without thinking about how to utilise the money they are earning. So, hopefully in time that will get better and the football clubs will deal with it better.
After getting sold by Arsenal to Bristol City at the age of 20, did you believe you would go on to achieve all the success you did in your career?
I’d made my mind up to leave Arsenal, to go to other places and to use my move to Bristol City as a stepping stone. For me it was always about believing that I could play to the highest level. I took the knockbacks. Loads of kids will get knockbacks in football but if you use every negative and turn it into a positive, that's how you go places; perseverance, hard work and dedication. I always knew I was good enough to get to the highest level and I did. I believed I could achieve what I’ve achieved.
Do you think David Moyes (Manchester United's new manager) can continue the success of Sir Alex Ferguson at Man United, especially since Jose Mourinho's return to Chelsea and with all the millions Manchester City have to spend?
Personally, I don't think Mourinho's return to Chelsea will affect Manchester United's success. We all hope that David Moyes will carry on and continue the success that Sir Alex Ferguson produced. However we have to be brutally honest here, to achieve the success that Alex Ferguson did in 27 years, you’d have to be an absolute magician. Although I do still believe there is opportunity at Manchester United and I'm a believer in Moyes.
As a top ex-Man United player and given that Chelsea are eager to sign him, what advice do you have for Wayne Rooney?
I’ve mentioned this numerous times. Everyone’s different. You’ve got to remember that to even play at a club like Manchester United is a massive honour and to play that level of football every week is outstanding. Now, we’re all different and the only person who can make that decision is going to be Wayne, when he makes it.
And what about the other big transfer rumour, will Gareth Bale go to Real Madrid? Do you think he should go?
If Tottenham decide not to sell him, you can't blame them. Equally if they do decide to sell him and he goes, you can't blame him. An opportunity to play for a club like Real Madrid will only come around once in your career and even if you’re a young player you have to take that chance.
David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and the Neville brothers were recently pictured on a night out. Do you keep in touch with any of your former Manchester United teamates?
Yes, I always see them. I am very fortunate that the job I have at Manchester United keeps me up in Manchester. I’ve seen all the boys including Becks. So I’m very fortunate in my position that I still have the opportunity to get involved.
A number of former ex-united players (Steve Bruce, Roy Keane and Paul Ince) have gone on to become managers. Now that you have completed all your coaching badges, is this the next step for you?
I think it takes a person with a certain mindset to become a successful manager, if you’re inclined to become a manager and it’s your passion, then you have to give it a try. I’m still not sure management is for me. Honestly, I don’t mind coaching. I enjoy being on the pitch coaching, it can almost be as good as playing. Management isn't easy. I’m not sure about it.
With all the success you had at club level, were you disappointed to only achieve 15 England caps?
It's obviously a great honour to represent your country. But I’ll be brutally honest with you, I look back on my days and It's neither here nor there. It was one of those things that was never meant to happen, and I don’t lie awake at night thinking ‘Oh my gosh, what has happened?' No, not at all. It just wasn’t meant to be. If something’s not meant to be, then it’s not meant to be. Life goes on.
Your old Manchester United manager Fergie was famous for his hair-dyer treatments, were you ever on the receiving end of this and if so, why?
Why? Because I’m a stubborn guy, I speak my mind you know, and sometimes there was a clash of personalities or whatever. Like in any job, the manager has a right to advise. He’s manager and that’s part of the Job.
Do you think the hair-dyer treatment to players has contributed to Alex Ferguson's success as a manager?
No, I wouldn’t say that. I think he galvanised certain individuals, and the players liked to prove to him that they were disappointed by what he'd said. So they went out on the pitch to prove him wrong.
Who’s the greatest player you’ve ever had the opportunity to play alongside?
I’ve played with some great players. Paul Scholes he’s a great player. I’ve been fortunate enough to play with Beckham, Giggs, Yorke, some really great players. I’m just glad I’ve had the opportunity to play with them.
Who was your most difficult opponent to play against?
Des Walker in his heyday, and Sol Campbell.
And how about your long-running feud with Neil Ruddock?
I look back on my football career and I ask myself, what legacy do I want to leave? I want kids to look up to me and say 'I want to be like Andy Cole'. My legacy is for people to talk about my football, and that’s what I want them to talk about. He won't have that. He likes to talk about his legacy, which is breaking my leg. Who wants to be remembered for that?
Finally, I'm a Hull City fan. How do you think we will perform in the Premier league next season?
[Laughs] Hull just need to concentrate on staying up! Anything else is a bonus.
Right, it's time to don our football kits so Andy can show us just how to score the perfect goal! And yes, he really can bend it like Beckham! To find out just how to score a perfect goal, buy next week’s Ahlan!