Giants & Veterans from Manchester United and Manchester City Football Clubs
Sir Bobby Charlton
Charlton may be fairly said to be the most famous English footballer in the world. He epitomises the highest traditions of sportsmanship and integrity. Born 11th October 1937 in Ashington, County Durham, by 19 he had already played in the FA Cup Final. A natural talent, he was a midfield player and striker of great flair and consistency. He played as a forward for Manchester United from 1956 to 1973, having been one of the few survivors of the Munich Air Disaster in 1958. A miner’s son, born into a footballing family, he had joined United after winning England Schoolboy Inter- national honours. He was a high scoring and individualistic player, noted for his long swerving runs and deadly accuracy with a football. His highly developed skills were evidenced in the fact that during his playing career he amassed a then record 106 England caps, and that he was included in the English World Cup winning team in 1966. Also in 1966 he was voted “Footballer of the Year”. By the end of his career, his name had become a byword for sportsmanship the world over. Shortly after this he was appointed manager of Preston North End. In 1994 he was knighted for his services as an ambassador for English football – the first soccer player to receive the honour in 30 years. In the whole of his professional career, he was never once sent off the field. Twenty years after his last appearance as a United player, “Sir Bobby” is still remembered and reverenced as the supreme sportsman and instinctive footballer. In March 2009 Sir Bobby Charlton was given the Freedom of the City of Manchester in honour of his long-standing achievements in football.
Denis Law joined and débuted for Manchester City Football Club in March 1960 after the most expensive transfer fee up to that time – �55,000. A lethal goal scorer, first class tackler and midfield “minder”, he was contemporary with, and ranks alongside, such great players as Bobby Charlton. 77 appearances and 37 goals later, he transferred to Torino (Italy) for �125,000 (another record fee), before returning after a year to join Manchester United. He played as a forward striker for Manchester United from 1962 to 1973. His lightening reflexes and heading skills made him a great crowd puller and favourite with United fans. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland on 24th February 1940. Dubbed “The King” by fans. Slightly built and lightweight, he had become Huddersfield Town’s youngest player at 15 years of age, and Scotland’s youngest National Team player in 1958. Also played for Manchester City FC. Bought by United in 1962 for a then record fee of �110,000. Always a high goal-scorer, during his 393 appearances for United, he scored 236 goals. He scored six goals in the match against Luton Town in January 1961. Reputed to be the highest FA goal-scorer of all time. In July 1973 he rejoined City and scored the winning goal against Manchester United in the Derby match of April 1974. Winner of 55 Scottish caps.
(1946-2005) Born 22nd May 1946 in Northern Ireland, George Best was one of the most outstanding British soccer players of all time, though his career was short-lived. Described as a “wayward genius”, he had a superb sense of timing and balance, and appeared twice as a league championship winner with United and won the “European Footballer of the Year” award in 1968. A superstar figure, he was often known as the “Fifth Beatle” He occupied a forward position in the team from 1963 to 1974, when an otherwise promising career was shortened due to controversial personal life, and his professional unreliability. He seemed unable to cope with the pressures of super-stardom which his footballing skills had attracted. His career was dogged by scandal and he was constantly harassed by tabloid newspapers and the sensational reporting on his alleged womanising and drunkenness. Soon, his frequent late arrivals and failure to show for training sessions and declining fitness were to bring him into conflict with the Manchester United managers and in 1974 he was forced to leave the club. He is quoted as having said that football bored him. However, he later played for both Fulham and for Stockport County football teams. Of his 466 appearances with the United team, he scored 178 goals, most memorably scoring six goals of the eight against Northampton Town in February 1970. Plagued by a severe alcohol problem, he was given a second chance through a complete liver transplant in 2002. However, in late 2005 his health rapidly declined as he contracted a serious lung infection, and he was admitted to the Cromwell Hospital in London. On life support and in an intensive care unit, he deteriorated into a deep coma, and on Friday 25th November, sadly, George Best lost his fight and died at the age of 59, surrounded by his family at his bedside.
Sir Matt Busby OBE
Born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire in Scotland, Sir Matt Busby CBE had 2 footballing careers : first, as a player for Liverpool and Manchester City, and then, probably more famously as Manager of Manchester United. Signed up in 1928 aged only 17, he subsequently played in both the 1933 and 1934 FA Cup Finals for City. He went on to make 226 appearances as a midfield defender and halfback, and scored 14 goals for City, and then made 118 appearances for Liverpool before the War ended his career. A Scottish international, who played in wing-half position before the Second World War for Liverpool and Manchester City. Signed up for City aged 17 when about to emigrate to America with his widowed mother. He took over the bombed-out Old Trafford management in 1945, and within three years had created one of his several memorable teams who won the FA Cup in 1948. His so-called “Busby Babes” went twice into European Cup Semi-finals, before disaster struck the team at Munich in 1958. He died 20th January 1994. Much-loved and respected by team-players and fans alike, known as a fair honest and kindly man, thousands of the people of Manchester turned out to his funeral in 1994 in tribute to “Sir Matt”, who had brought so much honour to it.
Born Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona, reportedly in Paris, France on 24th May 1966, but other sources have Marseilles as his birthplace. Cantona signed to United in 1992 for a transfer fee of �1.2 million, after an extensive career in various French teams since his debut as a 14 year old. He played for Auxerre, Martigues, Marseille, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Nîmes and Leeds United before ending his professional footballing career at Manchester United. A visionary attacker, his new blood and flair brought inspiration to his United team-mates. He q uickly became a popular cult hero to fans, was voted “Player of the Year” in 1994, affectionately nicknamed by fans “King Eric”and is regarded as having been instrumental in riviving United’s fortunes. Cantona made 181 appearances for United and scored 80 goals, wearing the celebrated number 7 shirt, later inherited by David beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.. After retirement he made a foray into acting in the Film “Elizabeth” starring Cate Blanchett, and in the 2009 film “Looking for Eric. He has subsequently appeared in live theatre in France and on 18th January 2011 he became Director of Soccer for the New York Cosmos. In 2002 when he was made an inaugural inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame.
Duncan Edwards played halfback for Manchester United from 1952 to 1958, when his life was tragically ended in the Munich Air Disaster. Born in Dudley, (then in Worcestershire, now in the West Midlands metropolitan County) on 1st October 1936, he was one of the truly outstanding members of Matt Busby’s policy of promoting new young football talent. He had joined United straight from school in 1952, and was playing for United in the First Division by the age of 16. He was a prime example of a “Busby Babe”. He appeared in England schoolboy and youth teams winning many medals and caps. He had control, size and speed, with great mid-air ability, and a specialism in the cross-field pass. Of his 175 appearances for United, he had scored 21 goals. After putting up a strong fight to survive the aircrash, he died from injuries on 21st February 1958. A permanent memorial stained glass window to his memory can be found in St. Francis Church in Dudley.
Bryan Robson OBE
Born in Chester-le-Street on 11th January 1957. Midfield player with United from 1981 to 1994. Nicknamed “Captain Marvel” and “Robbo”. Had sustained 3 broken legs in earlier days with West Bromwich Albion, and his later career was dogged by back and hamstring injuries – all of which he persistently overcame. Manager Ron Atkinson had paid around �2 million to acquire Robson. He was a motivational force in the team, who led by example and engendered high team spirit. Captained United as well as the England Team. Dynamic, inspiring, a skilful attacker and defender. Played 435 matches and scored 97 goals.
Born in Aberdeen, Scotland on 6th March 1949, Martin Buchan was one of the coolest and classiest defenders of his day. He had a good sense of position and could turn a fast pace when necessary. Transferred to United from Aberdeen in March 1972 for a fee of �125,00. Voted “Scottish player of the year” in 1971 and capped 34 times for Scotland. Spent 11 years at Old Trafford, six as club captain. Appeared 455 times for United and scored 4 goals. Left in 1983 for Oldham Athletic.
Born in Croxteth, Liverpool on 9th July 1955. After debuting for Tranmere Rovers, he transferred to United when Tommy Docherty signed him in 1975. An orthodox winger with great heading skills, and a good turn of running speed. A serious knee injury in 1981 failed to respond, despite three operations, and he was forced into premature retirement in 1983. Collected 42 England caps. Appeared for United 395 and scored 70 goals. Briefly was manager at Crystal Palace but was fired in 2001, and went on to manage Brentford.
Born in St Helens, Lancashire on 5th January 1932. Discovered when only a schoolboy, playing for Whiston Boys Club in 1950, and described as a “granite-hard” defender, Foulkes. A survivor of the Munich Air Disaster, he was a solid centre forward, strong, fit and powerful in the air. He won a record four League Championship medals and appeared for United 679 times between 1952 and 1970. Better known as a goal-stopper than a goal scorer – 9 goals in all.
An Assistant Manager who arrived at Manchester United from Derby County in 1999. A highly respected and inventive coach who brought new ideas to the club, he was widely tipped to follow Sir Alex Ferguson as manager, but management did not always see eye-to-eye with him and it was just not to be, and McClaren left the club to manage Middlesborough in 2000.
Played in a forward position for Man United from June 1997 to May 2001. He had transferred from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of £3 million, largely as a replacement for the departing Eric Cantona (above), and afterwards returned to Tottenham on a free transfer. There was a great deal of opposition to this cockney’s appointment to the team, despite his being a powerful and important goal-scorer. His game was marked by a speed that made defenders look like they were standing still, an accurate passing and deadly aim. In all Sherringham made 98 appearances for the team and scored 48 goals, and during his brief term at United was voted Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year.