Interviews

Wes Brown recalls how Zinedine Zidane made him question his career choice during a game

Wes Brown

Manchester United’s Champions League-winning defender tells FourFourTwo how the Frenchman operated on a different level during a Champions League match in 2003

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Many Manchester United fans will recall the famous 6-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the 2003 Champions League quarter finals. A Ronaldo hat-trick in the second leg prompted a standing ovation from the home fans as United won the game, but lost the tie, against a classic side oozing with Galactico talent. 

Wes Brown remembers it too, only with a slightly better view of proceedings than many of us. Brown was a 23-year old at the time, and was tasked with keeping an eye on Zinedine Zidane in the first leg in Madrid, with the Frenchman operating on the left of a midfield three.

“He was on the left and I was at right-back, so I’m sort of marking him,” recalls Brown, in the latest issue of FourFourTwo. “We lost 3-1 and it was one of those games where I could say, ‘I didn’t do anything’. If I moved up into midfield, he’d just run past me and I was in no man’s land.”

Zidane was at the height of his powers in 2003, a reigning Champions League winner, having scored one of the greatest goals in Champions League history in the final of the competition the season before, as Real defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-1. Brown was blown away by the World Cup winner’s ability, which reminded him of a team-mate at the time. 

“Paul Scholes was the same,” says Brown. “These players get you into areas where they want you. They’ll drag you out, and you can’t get a tackle in because they’re clever. They create space. Every time I got close to Zidane he’d use one touch, and when I wasn’t near him he’d have more time.”

Read the full interview with Wes Brown in the April 2020 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out in shops and available digitally from Thursday March 5. Our new magazine reveals the stars of the decade – the 50 wonderkids who'll rule the next 10 years, with exclusive interviews with Marcus Rashford, Erling Braut Haaland, Vinicius Jr, Gabriel Martinelli, Ruben Neves, and Reece and Lauren James – as well as profiles of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kylian Mbappe. We also chat to Steve Clarke and Mick McCarthy and Scotland and Ireland in the Euro 2020 play-offs, revisit the last time Liverpool won the league, and chat to Nobby Solano, Yakubu and Wes Brown about their careers.