Football: Treble tension a treat to Yorke

The cool head of a hot striker is keeping Manchester United's feet on the ground.
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The Independent Online
YOU WOULD have thought any Manchester United player would have been hard put to keep in touching distance of perspective. Three matches to go and three wins will give them a unique treble of the Premiership, FA Cup and European Cup - and all in the matter of the next 12 days.

Excitement, tension and fear of failure must be racing through young minds at Old Trafford, making it difficult to keep a grasp on the wider picture. But not Dwight Yorke. Instead of feeling expectation bearing down on him yesterday, he dismissed the burden.

"It's not pressure," he said. "Pressure is Kosovo where people are not getting food and their country is getting bombed. I call this enjoyment. You play football, you express yourself in front of a lot people and you get paid a fantastic amount of money to do things you always dreamed of doing. That to me is great time."

Yorke, the man with the biggest, most often-used grin in English football, has been having a whale of a time since he arrived at United with a pounds 12.5m price tag attached and in pursuit of medals that had eluded him at Aston Villa. So to be in the position where he could collect three just nine months later with wins over Tottenham, Newcastle and Bayern Munich is almost greedy.

He expected to be challenging for the League and the Cup as United have been there or thereabouts in both for the last seven seasons, but the European Cup final against Bayern in Barcelona on 26 May is a windfall. "You look at where we are now," he said. "Every footballer in the world would love to be in the same position."

The success, maybe, but there were many who arrived at Old Trafford before and froze in the headlights. Like Eric Cantona the 27-year-old Tobagan merely turned up his collar against the world and scored and scored. Twenty- nine times, which is quite apart from the goals he has helped make for Andy Cole and others.

"I'm not surprised," he said, "but maybe I've surprised a few people. They might have had doubts about me joining Manchester United and wondered whether I was worth the money but that wasn't my problem.

"I know what I can and can't do and if there had been any doubt in my mind that I couldn't cope at Manchester United I wouldn't have come.

"I am laid back and easy going. What you see is what you get, I'm afraid. I've been brought up in the Caribbean and that has made me more aware and hungry for success. Coming from a Third World country I was never going to let the opportunity go by without giving 110 per cent."

Yorke has spoken many times about his partnership with Cole that has blossomed on and off the pitch but yesterday he switched tack to praise Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, who frequently supply the passes for his goals.

"I've got 29 goals and it's an achievement," Yorke said, "but I'm not here to get the plaudits, my team-mates deserve as much credit as me. I score the goals and get the headlines but Becks, Giggsy and the others are those who supply me with the ammunition.

"I think David's been superb this season, he's let his football do his talking for him. His passion for the game is just the same. He's a winner. Funnily enough he's someone I confide in. We talk quite a lot and share things now. At first I was a little bit naive in terms of the club and meeting the people but Becks helped me a lot."

Naivety is not something you could accuse Yorke of now. As top scorer in the Champions' League, he has a reputation that is resonating round the continent and bringing him attention that would have passed him by, given Tobago's standing. Now comes the moment to crown that renown.

"We haven't won anything yet," he said. "It's an opportunity that might not come again in a lifetime so it's one you don't want to mess up. We all know how much it has taken to get us near to the top of the mountain. We're three-quarters of the way there and now comes the final push for the three trophies."