As the ‘Class of 92’ hit cinemas last week, we take a look at the story of Giuliano Maiorana, one of the original ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ whose rapid rise from non-league football to the Manchester United first team is likely to never be repeated.
When Giuliano first heard that United were looking at him, he thought it was a joke; he was playing non- league football for Histon part time and had already been turned down by Cambridge United, Brentford and Norwich City.
He was given a trial but wasn’t very hopeful: “When I found out United were looking at me, I honestly thought it was a wind up considering I was 19 at the time, and bearing in mind that Cambridge United had told me on a few occasions that I wasn’t good enough for them. I thought my one week trial at Manchester United would come to nothing, other than a week of experience with a massive club”.
In only the second day of his trial, Giuliano was picked in the squad to play in a testimonial match for Birmingham City’s Ian Handyside and performed so well that he was offered a four-year contract after being substituted at half time: “Being picked to play in Ian Handyside’s testimonial was a big surprise to me, it was a Tuesday night and before the game I got told I was in the starting line-up which shocked me even more because it was with the first team squad.”
“Playing in front of 10,000 people was nerve racking but luckily for me I didn’t do too bad, I got a penalty and at half-time they brought me off and offered me a four year contract straight away. It took me only around six weeks to break into the first team. My scout Ray Medwell told me what I had achieved would not happen again, because at the time Histon were five leagues below the old fourth division”.
The transfer fee United paid Histon saved them from going out of business and Maiorana made his debut on 14th January 1989, coming on as a substitute in a league match against Millwall at Old Trafford, and remembers feeling slightly overwhelmed by the situation he found himself in: “When I came on as a sub I remember after running down the wing, because I was breathing heavy, my ears kept blocking and unblocking, all I could hear fading in and out of my ears was United, United, United!”
“As this happened I looked around the stadium and suddenly it dawned on me the magnitude of the situation I was in. There were around 45,000 people at the game and considering only six weeks before I was playing in front of 50/60 people. I was used to watching professional games but all of a sudden I was thrust into a game, which the supporters were watching, that I was playing in, it was ridiculous and awe inspiring”.
The skilful left winger rose to prominence in his first start for the club with an exciting performance in a televised 1-1 draw against Arsenal, who finished the season as league champions. It looked like the start of a long and promising career and he was seen as a star of the future at Old Trafford.
Then a cruel twist of fate intervened, whilst playing in a reserve game in 1991 he suffered a serious knee injury after a tackle from Aston Villa’s Dwight Yorke, from which he was unable to fully recover. He never played for the first team again, eventually leaving the club and after a brief spell playing in Sweden he retired from the game at the age of 24.
In total Giuliano made eight appearances for United and looks back at his time at Old Trafford with mixed emotions: “Obviously playing for the first team was a dream, but the flip side was getting injured when I was 21 and having to retire at 24. A journalist once asked me after reading in a paper about the skill I had, if it made me feel proud.”
“I responded that I was very lucky to have been blessed with the skill I did have, but it would’ve made my life a hell of a lot easier if I didn’t have it and United would’ve released me because I wasn’t good enough, then at least I could’ve got on with my life thinking that I had given it a go and wasn’t good enough. Instead I’ve got a question mark over my career, that unfortunately for me I will never be able to answer.”
Now 44, Giuliano now works for his family’s upholstery business and still has some involvement in football: “I only play five-a-side now against friends, nothing serious just for enjoyment, getting too old for that. I also help coaching my son’s team. I’ve been doing that for around eight years and get a lot of pleasure and enjoyment doing it.”
Unlike many players whose careers are cut short by injury, Giuliano is happy and has been able to make a good life for himself away from football: “I’ve learnt with age that you always have to look at the positives and for me the positives of my time at United are that I met some really good people up in Manchester, my wife is from Salford and we have two wonderful kids, I’m blessed with a great family.”
“I may not be rich with the money I might have earned as a professional footballer, but I’m happy and rich with life, so I can’t complain.”