Henrik Larsson's goal and trophy laden career is most likely defined by his phenomenally successful spells with Celtic and Barcelona, where the Swedish striker captured a combined total of six league titles, as well as the 2006 Champions League. But the former Sweden international's two month loan spell at Manchester United at the beginning of 2007 was also memorable for everyone at Old Trafford, at the time.
After entering the 2006 Champions League final from the substitutes bench to swing the game in Barcelona's favour, as Frank Rijkaard's men came back to defeat Arsenal 2-1 in Paris to capture the club's first European Cup in 14 years, Larsson decided to call time on his career in Catalonia and return to Sweden, where he signed for former club Helsinborg, with whom he spent two seasons in 1992 and 1993.
But come the new year, the Swedish league season was still a couple of months away from beginning and Sir Alex Ferguson was in the process of trying to mastermind his first Premier League title victory in four years. But the former United manager was in need of an emergency attacking option to take the goal scoring burden off an overworked Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as an injury prone Louis Saha.
Just in time for the third round of the FA Cup commencing, United signed Larsson, then 35-years-old, to a two month loan deal.
The Swede would mark his debut with a fine goal against Aston Villa in the cup during a 2-1 victory and would continue to impress over the next couple of months.
Larsson wasn't prolific at Old Trafford, scoring just three goals in 13 games, but his influence on Ferguson's squad was huge, and the Scotsman eagerly tried to maintain the former Celtic man's services until the end of the 2006/07 season, to no avail, however.
Writing in his 2013 autobiography, Ferguson said, "In training he was superb: his movement, his positional play. His three goals for us were no measure of his contribution. In his last game in our colours at Middlesbrough, we were winning 2-1 and Henrik went back to play in midfield and ran his balls off."
What happened next just proves how much the United squad and staff thought of Larsson, as Ferguson goes onto explain what happened in the away changing room at full-time.
"On his return to the dressing room, all the players stood up and applauded him, and the staff joined in. It takes some player to make that kind of impact in two months."
Following Larsson's return to Helsinborg, Ferguson said, "He has been a credit to himself. His dedication to his job has never changed and it has been a real joy to have him.
"We would love him to stay but, obviously, he has made his promise to his family and Helsingborg and I think we should respect that - but I would have done anything to keep him."
Larsson, this week, has spoken to the Independent about his brief spell at Old Trafford and how much of an impact Ferguson had on his career, even at such a late stage.
"I learned a lot from Sir Alex and the way he was with players. It didn't matter if you were younger or older, if you weren't doing your job, you were told. There was a huge respect from the players, obviously. He was absolutely fantastic towards me and my family."
Since retiring from playing, Larsson has taken up management, taking in spells with Landskrona, Falkenberg and Helsinborg, although his managerial career has been a far cry from the glittering glory days of his playing career, with Larsson overseeing Helsinborg's relegation in 2016, leading to a small group of home fans attacking Larsson and his son, Jordan.
However, management career aside, Larsson will always be remembered for the ruthless nature with which he tormented defences across Europe for 20 years, scoring a remarkable 434 goals in 768 games.
(H/T Give Me Sport)
Featured Image Credit: PA
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