When Donald Trump had Manchester United in his hands

The former US President played a surprise role in English football back in the 1991/92 season

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
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For fans of English football of a certain generation, the 1990s was as good as it has ever been.

The English Premier League began to boom thanks to the start of the Sky TV money train, while still clinging on to its working class connection between players and fans.

Pitches were muddy when it rained, the balls were made by Mitre, boots were black and kits, for a couple of years at least, featured tassels in an effort to appear retro.

Big names such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker were sent hand-written fan mail rather than the stream of social-media abuse found today.

Many of the fondest memories from this era are now accessible across the internet, if not also gathering dust among a box of old VHS tapes in garages and lofts around the UK.

Within the treasure trove of footage and colourful anecdotes is an occasion that has resurfaced in both memory and online in recent weeks in connection with current real life events.

Former US President Donald Trump may now be starting to fade from our lives like those Tony Yeboah goal-of-the-season contenders, with Joe Biden having taken up residence in the White House. But cast your mind back to the 1991/92 season and there was Trump on UK TV screens, helping to shape the progress of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

The moment was the draw for the Rumbelows Cup quarter-final. Rumbelows, the electrical retailer, being that year's sponsor of what is commonly known as the League Cup.

The location was Trump Tower in New York and the hosts were former England striker Jimmy Greaves and prolific Scotsman Ian St John, who netted almost 100 times for Liverpool. Their TV show, Saint & Greavsie, was a light-hearted must-watch in the build-up to the traditional 3pm Saturday kick-offs.

How did all of this come about?

Greaves and St John were in the US for the 1994 World Cup qualifying draw ahead of America staging the tournament for the first time.

As well as attending that, they were also required to sort the Rumbelows Cup draw and, upon organising Trump Tower as the ideal location, they ended up meeting Trump who, no doubt seeing the opportunity for some self-promotion, agreed to their request to play an active role in proceedings.

Now, this isn't the riled-up "election conspiracy" Donald Trump of 2021, but the smooth operator of 30 years ago, who shows he is totally at ease in front of the camera despite talking about a subject he really had no idea about. That look on his face 10 seconds in is almost angelic.

Viewers don't have to wait long for another of the highlights.

"This is beautiful. I haven't seen a boardroom like this since I was in Doug Ellis's at Aston Villa," says Greaves, leading to a cackle of laughter from Trump, who surely had never heard of "Deadly Doug", as he was known in footballing circles (not for the sizable number of managers he sacked but in fact due to his ability to knock a fish on the head).

I love it, it's a great game

The draw proceeds with Trump getting his hands on Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Middlesbrough and then what he remarks as "the biggie", as he picks out Manchester United to face rivals Leeds United and swiftly reacts to the excitement of Greaves and St John.

Once the drawer concludes, conversation turns to Trump's footballing experience, of which he confirms he "used to play soccer in high school". "I love it, it's a great game," he purrs before offering quite reasonable analysis of how football was progressing as a sport in the US at the time.

The event concludes with Trump receiving the "most prestigious award in football history" ... the Saint and Greavsie mug.

From that bursts so many potential questions - most pertinent of which is what did Trump do with it, and where is it now?

It's an endearing video that shows both football and Trump in a more innocent light. Just friendly, light-hearted banter among a few men - two of whom love the game, and one who claims to.

And, if you're wondering who went on to win the Rumbelows Cup that season, it was of course Manchester United. It's surprising that Trump never claimed to have taken the credit for it.