Regrets are the worst. The great opportunities of life left untapped only to haunt you as you try and move into new opportunities. We all have them, including Henrik Larsson. The Swedish striker spent two and a half fantastic months at Manchester United after his surprising loan signing in the January transfer window of the 2006/07 season. Alex Ferguson’s trust in his French striker, Louis Saha, was waning and Larsson turned out to be just the right tonic at an important time in the season.
Larsson is a footballing legend at Celtic FC. Known by a few different nicknames in Glasgow, King of Kings takes the cake. His seven years at Celtic yielded 242 goals in 315 matches, winning four Scottish Premier League Titles and was the top scorer in the Scottish Premier League in five seasons. After a short stop in Barcelona, Larsson made his way back to Sweden where he started. He had planned to spend the rest of his career there but during the close season of the Swedish season, Larsson received a call from Sir Alex Ferguson.
Larsson joined Manchester United on the 1st January 2007. His first match for United came seven days later in the FA Cup against Aston Villa and in true United debut fashion he found the back of the net after some great work from Rooney put Larsson into the box. The debuting striker did the rest and with the help of a goal from Solksjaer, United won 2-1. Larsson was in the starting XI for the first four of the 10 matches he played for United, but his first, and only, Premier League goal came off the bench. On the 27th January United travelled to Watford and put four goals past the Hornets without conceding. Larsson was the first to open the scoring that day followed by goals from Ronaldo, Rooney, and a Hornets own goal.
Larsson was 35 years old when he signed a loan deal with United. He scored three goals in the 10 matches he played for Ferguson and despite being at the end of his career, the striker was an instant hit at Old Trafford. Away from the pitch, he was an even bigger hit. Ferguson praised Larsson’s describing him as a “joy to work with.” He was the consummate professional who looked after himself with the detail of an Ian Fleming novel and it showed. The 35-year-old featured in 10 of the 13 matches that took place during his two and a half month loan spell in Manchester.
Although his last goal for United came in his last match against Lille in the Round of 16, second leg tie at Old Trafford, Larsson was on the Anfield pitch as John O’Shea scored his famous winner in March of 2007.
Despite Ferguson’s extended attempts to get Larsson to extend his loan until the end of the season, Larsson kept his promise to his family and returned to Sweden in March. Larsson later admitted the biggest regret of his great career was not staying at United;
“If there is one regret I have from my career, it is that I came home to Sweden when Mr. Ferguson was trying to get me to stay at Manchester United. I should have stayed at United for longer because I had a great time there and everyone at the club was very keen to keep me. My time there was too short. The whole experience was fantastic and, although I was 35 at the time, I still felt that I had some good football in me.”
Henrik Larsson was a legendary name come to a legendary club too late in his career, but the excitement and the passion with which United fans welcomed him for 13 matches were palpable. United would go on to win the Premier League that season, and although he had not played enough matches, at Ferguson’s request a winner’s medal was presented to Henrik Larsson, the King of Kings.