MANCHESTER UNITED’S biggest fan will arguably be sitting in the Charlton dugout at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
For Addicks boss Dean Holden is a ‘forever Red’, a proud season ticket holder for 30 years.
And someone who also played for the club at junior level.
But that deep connection will not stop Greater Manchester-born Holden from wanting to oust his heroes from the Carabao Cup.
The two clubs meet in a quarter-final clash — and this time Holden will not have to disguise himself as a fake steward to watch the tie, either.
Holden, 43, recalled: “My dad, uncle and brother-in-law were all stewards at Old Trafford.
“I got let down once with a ticket for the Champions League game with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.
“However, one of the stewards didn’t turn up for the game.
“So, there was a spare hi-vis jacket and radio. I wore them and went and sat next to my old man by the tunnel.
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“God knows what I would’ve done had there been a pitch invasion!”
Holden has used that light touch and sense of adventure to help Charlton recover from a poor season following his appointment last month.
Now after two successive wins in League One, including the 2-1 defeat of Lincoln on Saturday which moved them up to 12th place in the table, the club are starting to believe.
So can they really KO United? Holden said: “I’ve told my players, ‘if you don’t believe it can happen, it won’t happen’.
“I’m not just talking about beating Man United, either. It applies to everything.
“My old man has been a United supporter all his life.
“So it will be special for him also to see me coming out of the tunnel.
“Old Trafford is the best stadium in the world, and we’re playing one of the best clubs in the world. My Charlton players can enjoy it, though — it’s a free hit for them.”
Holden’s United dream came true when he also played for United’s junior teams before joining Bolton as a teenager.
United are in my blood. If we don’t beat them on Tuesday, I hope they win the competition.
He recalled: “I played alongside Wes Brown and current Leyton Orient boss, Richie Wellens.
“United are in my blood. If we don’t beat them on Tuesday, I hope they win the competition.
“I shall definitely try for a chat with Erik ten Hag, United’s manager. He has changed the culture at the club.
“You can see that by the way he handled Ronaldo and also dropped Marcus Rashford for a disciplinary reason.
“He’s put standards in place, and he’s got the team playing with confidence. He’s the right man for the job.”
Holden is not the only Charlton figure with a United connection.
Winger Corey Blackett-Taylor, who scored the club’s second goal after Scott Fraser’s opener against Lincoln at the Valley, has known first-hand about red-hot United striker Rashford since he was a kid.
Blackett-Taylor, 25, said: “When I was nine or 10 in Aston Villa’s academy, we used to play against Rashford and Manchester United.
“We all knew he was going to be a player. In those days, he played more as a No 10 or in centre midfield.”
He added: “The game at Old Trafford is definitely winnable. I’ve never played there before and we’re going to enjoy it and express ourselves.”