Monday night’s game sees United take on Arsenal at Old Trafford in the quarter final of the FA Cup, the game could have huge significance upon the seasons of both clubs with United aiming to win the competition for the first time since 2004 and Arsenal hoping to retain the trophy they won last season by beating Hull City at Wembley.
Rewind almost 26 years to April 1989, Margaret Thatcher was still the Prime Minister, Mike Tyson was still the Heavyweight Champion of the world despite suffering a brief scare against Frank Bruno a couple of months previously and on 2nd April a 19 year-old winger of Italian heritage sat in the Old Trafford dressing room absolutely petrified at the news that he was set to start against Arsenal, a formidable team that would finish the season as league champions.
Giuliano Maiorana had been plucked from non-league obscurity only months before after impressing during a trial spell and testimonial game. He had made his debut as a substitute in a 3-0 win over Millwall a couple of months before and another appearance off the bench against Luton Town had followed.
On how he felt when he first found out he would be starting the game, which was to be shown live on TV he says: “Before the game Ferguson said that Norman Whiteside had said he wouldn’t play if I wasn’t starting, which I thought was a joke.
“The team was announced an hour before kick-off and I thought I was only going to be in the squad, then he started reading out the team. Number one Jim Leighton, number two… then it got to number eleven and he said my name, I couldn’t believe it.
“I was scared to death, a lot of the other young players who had come through the youth system at United have said that it was expected that they would one day play for the first team, there was a progression there. They had learned to be professional footballers whereas I hadn’t, obviously when you first get picked for the first team you’re going to be nervous but I was off the scale.”
If the game had been played a day earlier ‘Jules’ may have been forgiven for thinking that this was some bad April fool joke but as it was he thrust into the action, playing directly against England full-back Lee Dixon whom he gave a hard time: “I remember going past him, my son put some footage of the game on YouTube which brought back a few memories. It was pouring down and I remember slipping and sliding in the mud.
“Dixon gave me a punch on the arm because I’d gone past him a couple of times, the beautiful thing about football is it doesn’t matter how nervous you are if you can take that nervous energy out of yourself when you’re on the pitch you’re going to do alright.
“Tony Adams scored at both ends so we ended up drawing 1-1. After the game I had to do a presentation in a suite, it was all new to me so I was quite embarrassed about it all. I remember walking past a load of United fans, they were screaming at me and asking if I realised that I had just taken the mick out of the England full-back.”
Jules didn’t know it at the time, but that Arsenal game nearly 26 years ago would prove to be the peak of a frustratingly short career instead of what should have been the beginning of a long promising one. He made five more appearances for the first team that year before suffering a serious knee injury in a reserve game in 1991 which played a big part in forcing his eventual retirement in 1994 at the age of just 24.
His story lay largely forgotten until recently when several articles and the Fledglings’ book have been published and it is one that doesn’t reflect particularly well on manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The pair didn’t get on and Ferguson refused to grant Maiorana a transfer before his injury despite repeatedly not considering him for the first team. Leaving the player to spend the early nineties either out injured or confined to reserve team football or lower.
“I got on with 99% of the people at United, they were all decent people, the only one I didn’t get on with was the manager, which speaks volumes. When I retired I washed my hands of football and some of the memories have been erased. People used to come up to me in the street asking if I was Jules who used to play for United and I would deny it. I wanted people to like me for who I was, not because I played for United.”
For Monday night’s game, Jules gives his verdict on United’s form this season as well as a prediction on how the game will go: “Although United have won a lot of games they’ve been sketchy, when Van Gaal came in I thought that because of what he did at Bayern Munich and Barcelona with the football they played that he would do the same with United and he hasn’t.
“Some United supporters have complained to me about the way they’re playing and that for the money they’ve spent and the world class players they have they should be playing better football and that’s also right. For the game I’m going to say United to win 2-1 but it could go either way and depends on which side turns up on the day for both teams.”