When Dwight Yorke signed for Manchester United in August 1998, some predicted it would be a battle between him and Andy Cole for a starting place in the team. But, instead of competing with each other, they became one of the most feared strike partnerships in the game.
Here, we will take a trip down memory lane and remember the iconic partnership of Yorke and Cole.
Yorke was discovered by then Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor in 1989, during a tour of the West Indies. His obvious talent impressed enough for him to be offered a trial with Villa. That trial turned into a permanent contract and Yorke moved to England to play in the top-flight of English football.
Initially a winger, he moved into a centre forward position for the 1995/96 campaign and scored twenty-five goals in all competition that season. Two more excellent seasons followed for him, before Alex Ferguson paid £12.6m to bring him to Old Trafford in August 1998.
Andy Cole started his career as a youth player at Arsenal but only managed one senior appearance for them. He then had a few seasons plying his trade in lower divisions, before joining Newcastle United in February 1993 and helping them gain promotion to the Premier League.
He immediately took the top-flight by storm and he netted thirty-four league goals in his first ever Premier League season to help Newcastle finish third.
His goal scoring stats had garnered a lot of attention, but it was still surprising when United bought him for £6m plus Keith Gillespie in January 1995. That sounds like a pittance when you think about the millions upon millions spent nowadays, but a recent post on the Betway blog estimated that this particular transfer would be the equivalent of around £40m in the transfer market today.
Despite signing midway through the season, Cole settled into life quickly at Old Trafford and he scored twelve goals in his first eighteen league matches. This included him becoming the first player to ever score five in a Premier League match during United’s 9-0 drubbing of Ipswich Town.
Yorke and Cole – An Iconic and Successful Partnership
Cole had already been a United player for over three years when Yorke arrived at the club, and it was thought the two would be in direct competition for a starting place. They were two of four fantastic strikers at the club who would have to fight to earn their place, along with Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
However, it wasn’t long before Yorke and Cole showed the beginnings of a great partnership.
It was the seventh game of the season before they both scored in the same match, during a 3-0 win over Southampton, which was a taste of things to come.
During that 1998/99 season, they scored fifty-three goals in all competition between them. Cole netted twenty-four and Yorke scored twenty-nine as United won the treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champion’s League.
The following season, they scored forty-five between them, but the 2000/01 campaign saw signs of a dwindling partnership with only fifteen goals scored by the pair.
Sure enough, that would be the last full season for them as a duo at United.
The arrival of Juan Sebastian Veron and Ruud van Nistelrooy meant chances were limited for both Yorke and Cole, and the latter left first when he signed for Blackburn Rovers in December 2001.
In three full seasons together, Yorke and Cole had fired United to three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, and the Champion’s League. They scored a total of 119 goals between them whilst playing for United at the same time.
Yorke and Cole rekindled their partnership at Blackburn Rovers for the 2002/03 season and they proved they still had the magic they used to have. Thirteen goals apiece in all competition was a decent return and many were left wondering if they could hit the heights they did at United.
They couldn’t, and the 2003/04 season saw them score their lowest combined total in a season while playing for the same club at the same time, with Cole scoring eleven and Yorke netting six for a total of seventeen.
To be honest, what they did before and after United may have been good. But, at United, they were superb. They were lethal in front of goal and they developed a fantastic understanding of each other and the way they each played.
They truly were one of the greatest, and most iconic, strike partnerships to have ever graced a football pitch and arguably the best partnership the Premier League has seen to date.