Born to wear the shirt
Club statistician and proud Mancunian Cliff Butler has been coming to Old Trafford for more than half a century.
Plenty of players have caught his eye down the years, but he admits he gets a special buzz from seeing local lads pull on the famous red shirt. Here, Cliff selects his greatest XI from the multitude of Mancunians – that means nobody from satellite towns such as Bury or even Salford, by the way (hence the omission of the likes of Paul Scholes and Gary Neville) – who have represented the club since 1878.
Goalkeeper: Jack Crompton (Hulme)
One of Manchester United’s greatest servants, Jack was Matt Busby’s first-choice goalkeeper in the years following the end of the Second World War. He was a member of the 1948 FA Cup-winning side that closed the gap on the 37 years without a major trophy. A fitness fanatic, he later became trainer to the fabulous United team of the 1960s and even did a brief spell as caretaker manager on the 1982 close-season tour. Approaching his 91st birthday, he still supports his beloved United and, along with wife Sheila, is a regular at United’s fixtures.
Defender: Shay Brennan (Wythenshawe)
Made his first-team debut in the emotionally-charged atmosphere of the club’s first match following the Munich Air Disaster, the FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday in which he scored twice to emerge as one of the evening’s heroes. That appearance came as a left-winger, but it was as a defender that he made his name in the star-clustered side of the 1960s. He later gained fame as the first English-born player to play for the Republic of Ireland under new rules established by FIFA.
Defender: Roger Byrne (Gorton)
Roger began his career as a half-back, then winger, but eventually found his true calling to become one of the most accomplished full-backs of his generation. Following Johnny Carey as club captain, he was the perfect successor to the great Irishman and the ideal man to lead Matt Busby’s team on the field. Tragically, he lost his life two days shy of his 29th birthday, in the tragedy at Munich. His passing was mourned equally by supporters of Manchester United and England.
Defender: Dick Duckworth (Collyhurst)
Dick was one third of the famous trio that made up United’s famous half-back line (along with Charlie Roberts and Alec Bell) of the early 20th Century. He was an integral element in the club’s first great side, which won two Football League titles in 1908 and 1911, as well as the 1909 FA Cup. Duckworth was one of the finest players ever to play for the club and is an automatic choice in this selection.
Defender: Wes Brown (Longsight)
One of the finest defenders to wear the famous red, Brown would have had even more admirers but for a series of injuries that interrupted the flow of his career. There is nothing more United supporters adore than a home-grown player to idolise and Wes fitted the bill perfectly. Such was his dedication to the cause that even his occasional lapses of concentration were quickly forgotten and despatched to the history file.
Midfielder: Nobby Stiles (Collyhurst)
Without doubt, Nobby Stiles is one of the most famous Mancunian footballers. Like Wes Brown, Nobby could be relied upon to always give 100 per cent for the team, and although it took him time to establish himself in the great team of the 1960s, he became equally as important as the galaxy of stars that claimed more of the headlines. His most famous career moment arrived following England’s 1966 World Cup final victory over Germany when he cavorted around Wembley with the Jules Rimet trophy held aloft.
Midfielder: Nicky Butt (Gorton)
Just like Nobby Stiles and John Aston Jnr in the great 1960s side, Nicky Butt was for the best part overshadowed in the 1990s (and beyond) by the galaxy of stars that guided United to so many trophies during his time at OT. That said, there is no doubt every single one of his teammates would have stepped forward to sing his praises as an invaluable cog in the machine. His climb to fame began as a member of the venerated 1992 FA Youth Cup team that beat Crystal Palace to claim the trophy for the first time in 28 years.
Forward: Danny Welbeck (Longsight)
The Old Trafford crowd’s craving for local lads to make the grade was sated once again when the dashing figure of Danny Welbeck burst on the scene. As a youngster he was said to possess all the potential ingredients required to have a great future in the game and his determination to succeed ensured all the predictions were indeed prophetic. Now established in United’s first-team squad and the England international set-up, the future could hardly be brighter for the likeable young star.
Forward: Dennis Viollet (Fallowfield)
A survivor of the Munich Air Disaster, in which so many of his teammates (and pals) lost their lives, Dennis eventually recovered from the trauma to rebuild his career. Another of those players who didn’t attract plaudits in the same volume as his contemporaries, he was, nevertheless, an outstanding performer with a sniper’s eye in front of goal. Winner of league championship medals in 1956 and 1957, he scored 32 league goals in 1959/60 – a single-season feat that stands as a United club record to this day.
Forward: Brian Kidd (Collyhurst)
Some supporters would deem it heresy to include somebody who, barely six months ago, helped mastermind a title triumph for the club’s biggest rivals. But that would be small-minded and short-sighted to exclude a player who was an idol at Old Trafford long before his efforts aided Manchester City’s transformation. “Kiddo” will never forget his 19th birthday, for on that glorious evening in May 1968 he was one of United’s goalscorers in the emotional 4-1 European Cup-winning triumph over Benfica at Wembley.
Forward: John Aston Junior (Clayton)
John, an orthodox winger, was another player who was forced to operate in the shadow of the great stars of United’s great side of the 1960s. Yet on the greatest occasion that famous selection enjoyed, the 1968 European Cup final win over Benfica, it was universally agreed that the accolade of Man of the Match belonged to him. He first caught the eye in the Reds’ 1964 FA Youth Cup-winning side alongside teammates such as Jimmy Rimmer, John Fitzpatrick, David Sadler and George Best.
Dick Duckworth (front left)
John Aston Jnr