Brian Kidd: 'I learnt so much working with Sir Alex'

He has played for both clubs, coached at Old Trafford, and is now Mancini's right-hand man. In a revealing interview, Brian Kidd explains the personal significance of an extraordinary derby
Click to follow

He was born two streets away from Nobby Stiles, a rangy kid whose brother was a good fighter, and he was just 19 when he scored for Manchester United in the European Cup final and then, two years later, he ransacked Manchester City with two goals in an FA Cup tie in the season when Sir Matt Busby finally walked into the shadows.

He helped groom players such as David Beckham and Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville and then he stood shoulder to shoulder with Sir Alex Ferguson as the third great age of United unfolded.

You might imagine Brian Kidd, 60, might feel a certain twinge of ambivalence this high noon when he works with Roberto Mancini for the downfall of the club that was for so long the foundation of his life. But then if you think that you do not quite know how the mind of a football man works, and certainly not the one owned by Kidd.

On the eve of the Manchester derby that, to say the least of it, will settle bragging rights for a long and almost certainly rancorous summer, Kidd identifies most strongly not with either of the clubs he once played for with distinction but a single player.

His name is Carlos Tevez. "I know what it is," says Kidd, "to cross the lines in this city and when I think of the pressure I felt it just puts me that little bit more in awe of what Carlos has done since he left United.

"At a time like this he makes me feel so happy to be around him because above everything else he reminds me of what it was to play in games like the one he faces now, to be a kid again when you love football so much it is everything. For me he is the great throwback, a street football player in every part of his being.

"Think of what he did when he came to City. He knew everyone's eyes were on him. He knew people were asking if he was worth all that money. But that didn't bother him in the slightest. He just went on to the field and played his heart out. I don't know the ins and outs of what happened when he left United but I know how committed he was, how determined he was to prove himself.

"Working towards this game, we have to be happy with the mood of the team. We have to love the fact that players like Gareth Barry and Vinnie Kompany are playing out of their skin.

"And then you look at Tevez and Craig Bellamy and you know one thing for certain. When they cross the line you know they are going to give you everything they have. You see it every day in training and you see it at match time.

"There is still so much to do at City but we can be pleased with one thing above all. We have a real team now, playing out of their pride and belief and after all my years in football I still get a thrill when I think about it.

"It is what you're in the game for, it makes everything worthwhile, and when people talk about all the money that is earned in football you say to yourself, 'Yes, that's right, but I do know a few players who can still get right down to basics and produce something that is deep inside them'. Tevez and Bellamy are in this way one of a kind. You send them out and you know precisely what you're going to get."

Kidd has had a rich and varied journey through football, playing for United, City, Arsenal and Everton, for England, and a twilight career in North American soccer, managing Blackburn and working as a right-hand man for Ferguson, David O'Leary, when Leeds United reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, Sven Goran Eriksson and now with Roberto Mancini.

Stiles saw the start of it in Collyhurst, a tough district close to the heart of Manchester. Kidd was seven years younger than Stiles but he was astonishingly mature in the street games with a puckish sense of humour which surfaced many years later on a tour of South America when the latter received death threats after being sent off in a World Club final against Argentine club Estudiantes.

Stiles recalls: "As we left the dressing room in Buenos Aires I did fear for my life. As we turned down a dark corridor I felt something hard being pushed into my back and I heard a voice close to my ear saying, 'I'm gonna kill you, you little English bastardo bandido'. When I whipped round Kiddo had a sick grin on his face. That was Collyhurst humour of the worst kind."

Kidd is in good humour now, the scars of the rift with Ferguson that came when he left for Blackburn long healed, along with the ones that came with a three-year battle against prostate cancer. "I learnt so much at Old Trafford under Sir Alex, I worked with the kids and then as assistant manager and I saw how you make a club come alive, how you make everyone care.

"In football you never stop learning. Every top manager has something to pass on. Roberto Mancini has done a tremendous job at City, you only have to see him work for a little while to know how deep he is into the football culture. The most noticeable thing is that he respects players, which of course helps him to get want he wants at match time."

He also drives hard and sometimes a little of his passion spills over, as it did in his recent touchline collision with Everton's David Moyes.

"Let's be honest," says Kidd, "there's going to a be hell of lot of commitment tomorrow, the game means so much to everyone and yes of course it could be explosive. What you don't need to get across is the importance and the meaning of the match.

"In the old days no one needed to tell Nobby or Shay Brennan or Tony Dunne or Bill Foulkes or me how much it mattered that we beat City, and vice versa when I put on a blue shirt, but then in those days so many of the players had grown up with it in the streets. But the amazing thing is that there is the same feeling today with so many foreign players. They know the history of the game and the meaning it has tomorrow."

Kidd played in that European final because of injury to Denis Law, arguably the most compelling striker of his age. "You couldn't have wanted more from a kid in that situation," says Stiles. "I was proud of him, proud of where he came from."

Kidd swears his identity, his sense of place, will not be under pressure today when he works towards a new order of power in the city which bred all of his competitive values. "United will always be part of my life," he says, "and I'll always be proud of the association. But I will not be thinking about any of that. I'll just be thinking I'm one of the luckiest men alive."