Manchester United will have an unlikely ally in the opposition dugout this evening when the Red Devils face a reinvigorated Charlton side in the EFL Cup Quarter-finals.
Recently appointed Addicks manager Dean Holden hails from a family of Red Devil fanatics and has proudly held a United season ticket for over three decades.
Born in Greater Manchester, he also represented the club at the academy level.
It will be an emotional homecoming for Holden, who first witnessed the majesty of Old Trafford aged just 11, during a league fixture against West Ham in November 1991. Tomorrow he will find himself at the same hallowed ground, accompanied by his family and a 9,500 strong contingent from South-East London, all willing him on as Charlton chase a miracle.
The former full-back spoke at length to The Sun about returning to the Theater of Dreams, including a quite spectacular story about how he once took on the mantle of a fictitious steward to attend a Champions League semi-final second leg matchup against Borussia Dortmund.
Holden was quoted saying:
“My dad, uncle and brother-in-law were all stewards at Old Trafford.
“I got let down once with a ticket for the Champions League game with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.
“However, one of the stewards didn’t turn up for the game.
“So, there was a spare hi-vis jacket and radio. I wore them and went and sat next to my old man by the tunnel.
“God knows what I would’ve done had there been a pitch invasion!”
Despite these close links, Holden will still be eager to knock his boyhood club out of the Carabao Cup.
Speaking about his team’s chances playing against opponents of such stature, the Mancunian didn’t hold back.
He boldly stated:
“I’ve told my players, ‘if you don’t believe it can happen, it won’t happen’.
“I’m not just talking about beating Man United, either. It applies to everything.
“Old Trafford is the best stadium in the world, and we’re playing one of the best clubs in the world. My Charlton players can enjoy it, though — it’s a free hit for them.”
Holden also took time to reminisce about his time as an apprentice at United.
“I played alongside Wes Brown and current Leyton Orient boss, Richie Wellens.
“United are in my blood. If we don’t beat them on Tuesday, I hope they win the competition.
The former Bristol City manager was effusive in his praise for Dutchman Eric Ten Hag, pointing out how well the new man has adapted to his surroundings despite the substantial hurdles placed in his path.
“I shall definitely try for a chat with Erik ten Hag, United’s manager. He has changed the culture at the club.
“You can see that by the way he handled Ronaldo and also dropped Marcus Rashford for a disciplinary reason.
“He’s put standards in place, and he’s got the team playing with confidence. He’s the right man for the job.”
Since his hiring by Charlton last month with the club hovering four points above the relegation spots, Holden has been instrumental in helping his side bounce back from a disastrous start to their league campaign.
Following back-to-back hard fought victories in League One against Portsmouth and Lincoln, the Addicks have now slowly risen to 12th place in the standings and United will do well to not take them lightly.
There are more than one Charlton representative with ties to United.
Winger Corey Blackett-Taylor, who scored an exceptionally well taken left footed strike during the 2-1 win against Lincoln on Saturday has had personal experience with in-form Englishman Marcus Rashford since their days at the youth level.
Blackett-Taylor reflected upon that time, saying:
“When I was nine or 10 in Aston Villa’s academy, we used to play against Rashford and Manchester United.
“We all knew he was going to be a player. In those days, he played more as a No 10 or in center midfield.”
He further went on to add: “The game at Old Trafford is definitely winnable. I’ve never played there before and we’re going to enjoy it and express ourselves.”
Charlton fans, much like their no. 23, will look to enjoy the occasion and hope that their lads take the game to an opposition desperate for a trophy after multiple seasons without one.
All in all, this promises to be a nervous affair for everyone concerned.
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