Manchester United Testimonial: What You Need to Know About Football's Farewell Event

Michael Carrick Testimonial
Michael Carrick at Old Trafford, Manchester, June 4. Carrick is the latest footballer to have a testimonial. Reuters / Ed Sykes

On Sunday, 70,000 fans packed into Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United football club, to see a special reunion.

Former goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, now director of football at Ajax, returned to the stadium he played at for six years, from 2005 through 2011. Patrice Evra traded the sky blue of Marseille back to the red of United. Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes took their boots down off the hanger and pulled the club jersey on once again.

The team in red was full of representatives of the Manchester United team of 2008, the team that won the European Cup and Premier League. Its opposition: Michael Carrick All-Stars, for this day was all about the 35-year-old midfielder; it was his testimonial match.

But what is the point of a testimonial match, and where did the craze in football begin? Newsweek takes a look:

Purpose

At its core, a testimonial is intended to raise a sum of money at the end of a player's career, having been with a club for a significant period—but it is the recipient of those funds that has changed over the last two decades.

Origins

When the idea was formed in the early 1900s—and still to present day in lower leagues—a testimonial was a game played at the end, or nearing the end, of a player's career. The proceeds from the game would all go to the retiring player to help ease him into retirement. Billy Meredith, of Manchester United, is one of the earliest recorded testimonials having taken place in 1912, but Meredith claimed not to have been given the full amount.

Other sports

Football is not the only sport to hold testimonials. In 2005, former England rugby captain and World Cup winner Martin Johnson had a testimonial held at Twickenham stadium in London as he retired from the sport.

A change

Even to the turn of the Millennium, the highest paid footballers were still getting a bumper paycheck at the end of their careers. In 2001, a year before he retired as Arsenal's goalkeeper, 33,297 paid to get into Highbury and watch the testimonial for David Seaman in north London. The match, according to The Daily Telegraph, saw Seaman receive around £600,000 (about $776,000). Former Sunderland striker Niall Quinn is said to have raised £1 million at his testimonial in 2002. Nowadays, however, players in the Premier League receive such high wages that a new trend has begun—giving the proceeds to charity.

Charitable funds

Former Liverpool center back, Jamie Carragher, now a pundit for Sky Sports, held his testimonial at Anfield in 2010, nine years after Seaman's. He called upon former teammates, such as Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and Jerzy Dudek, to play against an Everton XI. The match at Anfield raised £1 million that went to Carragher's 23 Foundation, which releases the proceeds to charities within the Liverpool area.

The case of Carrick

Michael Carrick's testimonial also saw all funds being donated to charity. But, as with Carrick's match, the event has also become a celebration of a player's career with the subject addressing the crowd at the end of the match. On Sunday, as quoted by The Guardian, Carrick said: "The atmosphere was incredible. There was no way I could have hoped for anything like this. I know we get full houses here every week but it is not something I take for granted and to get so many here today is sensational."

Not everywhere

John Terry and Frank Lampard are the two players synonymous with Chelsea FC over the past two decades but neither player was given a testimonial. Terry and Lampard have won the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup together but there was no match to mark their departures.

The trend spreads

In December 2013, the MLS had its first ever testimonial match. Players from the 2006-07 Houston Dynamos squad attended BBVA Compass Stadium in Texas for Brian Ching's final game for the club. He left the pitch to a cheer of "Thank You Brian."

Manchester United Testimonial: What You Need to Know About Football's Farewell Event | Sports