Dwight Yorke says scoring a hat-trick during our 6-1 demolition of Arsenal in February 2001 ranks as one of his ‘fondest memories’ in a Manchester United shirt.
Our former striker appeared on a United Hangout episode with Andy Cole recently, and the pair discussed Yorkie’s rapid treble – which is one of the options in our latest ‘Match Rewind’ poll – against the Gunners in detail.
“Arsenal being one of our main rivals over the years, it was one of the fixtures to look forward to,” recalled Dwight. “Outside of Liverpool, it was the next big fixture in my time.
“So being able to score three against them in such a crucial game, it has to go down as one of my fondest memories at United. There are many fond memories in there, but as a striker you are always judged on the number of goals you score as well.
“To score three against them on that day, against David Seaman as well, who was one of the best goalkeepers in world football at the time, to have done that against such a quality goalkeeper and team, I was very happy about it.”
Yorke may have scored one of the quickest Premier League hat-tricks in history on that day, but he was far from a sure starter in the United side that season.
In fact, our eventual top goalscorer Teddy Sheringham and Cole were Sir Alex Ferguson’s preferred striking duo, with Dwight having featured in just three of our previous 11 league encounters.
When he got word of his likely inclusion, however, he was keen to seize his chance.
“I actually remember that during the week, I just had a feeling that the gaffer is giving me the heads-up that I was going to be playing,” recalls Yorkie.
“The opportunity had been very limited, so when the gaffer gave me that opportunity and said there’s your chance, I was ready to go.
“I felt well going into the game even though I hadn’t played that much and when I went out there I felt good, the instinct kicked in.
“It was just great to have the opportunity, and to score three on the day was the icing on the cake.”
Cole wasn’t involved on that memorable Sunday afternoon, when the Reds pulled 16 points clear of Arsene Wenger’s side at the top of the table.
Our legendary striker jokes that he could have netted his own treble, had he been given the nod ahead of his good friend.
“Out of Yorkie's hat-tricks it was one of his easiest ones,” said Andy. “If you look at all the goals as well, you'd take those any day of the week!”
Yorke’s first goal came after a delicious one-two with Paul Scholes, while the Tobagonian admits his second and third efforts owed much to pinpoint assists from Roy Keane and David Beckham, especially the latter’s incredible 60-yard diagonal ball.
“[Beckham]’s crosses were so quick and accurate, I stopped dribbling past people.
“I used to go past people and stuff but in this team you didn't need to do all that because the quality was so good.
“He's just ridiculous: [Kevin] De Bruyne has got a bit of fizz, but Becks is still the best I’ve seen.”
If Yorke thought his heroics would provide a way back into the team, however, he was mistaken – as Sir Alex brutally drove home the following weekend.
“It meant a lot to me. I wasn’t playing regularly because Coley and Teddy were doing the job. They were the first pairing which is understandable. If you drop off you'll be left behind. When you come up against a big rival, you want to do well because in the back of your mind you think if you do well you get back in the team.
“But we played Leeds the next week and I didn't play! The gaffer said he could have scored that hat-trick! That's what he said to me!”