Andrei Kanchelskis

Andrei Kanchelskis is a former Russian winger who was born in Kirovograd, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union on 23rd January 1969. Kanchelskis began his career at Dynamo Kiev in the late 1980s before signing for Shakhtar Donetsk in 1990. The wide-man possessed lightning quick pace and fantastic stamina. He was also capable of wiping in a mean cross and had a good eye for goal.

On 26th March 1991 Kanchelskis signed for Manchester United for £600,000. The move came about when United boss Alex Ferguson ran into notorious football agent Rune Hauge. Ferguson said he was on the lookout for a right sided midfielder. Hauge recommended Kanchelskis, and sent Ferguson a tape of the player in action in an international match against Italy. United concluded the deal not long after Martin Edwards and Ferguson watched Kanchelskis in action for Russia against Germany. He made his debut for the Red Devils in the penultimate clash of the season against Crystal Palace.

Kanchelskis became a regular and a fans favourite at Old Trafford during 1991/92, as United narrowly missed out on the 1st Division title to Leeds. He scored his first goal for the club on 2nd November 1991 in a 2-0 win over Sheffield United. He would go on to net a further 7 that term. His individual effort at Oldham was one of the strikes of the season. Kanchelskis played the first 75 minutes of United's 1992 League Cup final win over Nottingham Forest before being substituted for Lee Sharpe.

Kanchelskis was in and out of the United starting line-up during 1992/93, with Sharpe providing stiff competition on the right of midfield. Nevertheless, the Russian winger played an important role in helping the club to their first league title in 26 years. On 6th September 1992 he scored in a 2-0 win over rivals Leeds. He also netted in a vital 3-1 win at title rivals Norwich on 5th April 1993. United were lethal on the counter that night, and the Canaries were unable to cope with Kanchelskis's pace. He was one of only 13 foreign players to play on the opening weekend of the Premiership season.

Kanchelskis continued to perform to a high standard during 1993/94, as United picked up a League and FA Cup double. He was part of what some fans still consider Sir Alex Ferguson's best Old Trafford side. United lost just 4 league matches that campaign, picking up 91 points in the process. Kanchelskis was sent off in the League Cup final defeat to Aston Villa, but redeemed himself by playing an important role in United's FA Cup triumph. He scored a brace in the quarter finals against Charlton, and also netted in the 4-1 semi-final replay against Oldham at Maine Road. A goal in a 2-0 win at Leeds on 27th April 1994 set United on their way to a second consecutive title.

Kanchelskis penned a new deal at United in 1994, putting him amongst United's highest earners. He repaid the faith in 1994/95 with his most productive goalscoring season at Old Trafford. Kanchelskis netted 16 league goals in 30 matches, including a hatrick in a 5-0 win over neighbours Manchester City. Behind the scenes things weren't all they seemed however. On 22nd August 1994 United travelled back to Old Trafford having collected a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest thanks to Kanchelskis's opener. On returning to Manchester Alex Ferguson received a phone call from agent Grigory Essaoulenko, who insisted the United manager meet him at the Excelsior hotel to receive a gift. Ferguson was reluctant, but eventually agreed to meet Essaoulenko. The agent handed Ferguson a box, which contained £40,000 in cash. Fearing he had been filmed picking up the present; Ferguson took the cash straight to Old Trafford, where it was lodged in a safe as recommended by the club's solicitor Maurice Watkins. Ferguson was puzzled by the gift as he hadn't been involved in the negotiations for Kanchelskis's new contract.

Kanchelskis made a play for a move away from Old Trafford in 1995 when he criticised Alex Ferguson for benching him in a Ukrainian tabloid. Ferguson defended himself, and insisted the player needed resting because he was carrying an abdominal injury. The club later suspected Kanchelskis of faking an injury and fined him for his public outburst. He put in a transfer request, which was rejected. Ferguson was initially puzzled by Kanchelskis's attitude, until he found out the player stood to gain a third of any future transfer fee. During negotiations Essaoulenko warned Chairman Martin Edwards he 'wouldn't be around' if Kanchelskis was not transferred, fuelling rumours of mafia involvement. Interestingly the club did not contact the police after Ferguson received the £40,000. They did not even report the incident to the Premier League or the Football Association. Kanchelskis's original 1991 transfer later came under investigation from the Premier League, who found no evidence to suggest that there were any irregularities in any of the payments.

Kanchelskis signed for Everton at the start of 1995/96. Middlesbrough - who were managed by the Russian's former United teammate Bryan Robson -- were also rumoured to be interested prior to his arrival at Goodison Park. Kanchelskis thrived for the Toffee's, helping Joe Royle's men to a very impressive 6th place finish. He won the hearts of all Everton fans after netting in a 2-1 win at Liverpool on 18th November 1995. Kanchelskis scored 19 goals in 32 league appearances in 1995/96.

Kanchelskis made a solid start to the 1996/97 campaign. He netted a brace in Everton's 7-1 hammering of Southampton at Goodison Park. In January 1997 he joined Fiorentina for £8,000,000. Kanchelskis couldn't replicate his Premier League form on a regular basis in Italy, and was considered a disappointment in Florence.

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