Having played for Leeds United, Manchester City, and Liverpool—three clubs known in part for an enmity towards Manchester United—James Milner isn’t a player many United fans will have any fond feelings for.
While that anti-United career path might not have been planned out in advance, it’s one that suits him just fine. And it suits his father, too, who as a Leeds supporter Milner says raised him to dislike Manchester’s red side.
“It’s true,” Milner told FourFourTwo when asked about a story saying his father banned him wearing red growing up as it was the colour of United. “Leeds fans are brought up to dislike Manchester United, as rivals, so red wasn’t allowed.
“I didn’t have any red shirts or anything, and the first time I ever wore it was probably for England. He did joke when I signed for Liverpool that it was the first time he’d be happy to see me regularly in red.”
For a while, though, it didn’t seem certain Milner would be wearing red often or for long, as the year after he joined the club Brendan Rodgers was sacked and Jürgen Klopp arrived—and Milner’s minutes started to dry up.
A bench role was followed by his reinvention as a left back—an experience Milner admits he didn’t love but was willing to undertake for the sake of the team—and questions of what the future held for the veteran.
After leading the Champions League in assists last season and kicking off 2018-19 as the first name on the teamsheet in midfield, though, nobody’s asking if Milner still has what it takes to play regularly for a top side targeting titles and trophies.
At some point, though, when the legs do start to go—something it’s easy to imagine is still years off for the 32-year-old when—Milner says he might take a crack at playing goalkeeper somewhere. Just to check it off the list.
“It’s the only one to tick off,” he joked. “I’ve done every outfield position! I’d definitely put my hand up. The only problem would be my height—other than that, I’d stick my head in where it hurts!”