Hall of Fame: The Stars of Old Trafford

Hall of Fame Manchester United

Like the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’, we take a look at some of the greats, privileged enough to pull on a United shirt and walk through the Old Trafford doors.

1. Denis Law

Appearances: 404

Goals: 237

Signed from: Torino for £115,000 ( a record British fee )

The Law man, signed for Manchester United in July 1962. A then British record transfer fee. Law had broken the fee twice before. Law signed for neighbours and city rivals, Manchester City, from Huddersfield, for a British record of £55,000, before heading off to Torino in Italy, again breaking the record, this time for a sum of £110,000. Law’s Manchester United career would span thirteen seasons and bring a glittering style of play. His flair and goals contributed to United’s rebuilding process, post-1958.

Law would sign for the Red Devils having a reputation as a goal scorer. Neighbours City had enjoyed his talents a few years earlier, but it was United who were about to get the best years out of the Scotsman. One-third of United’s ‘ Holy Trinity ‘, Law would go on to score an absolute bucket load of goals at Old Trafford.

In Law’s debut season at United, Law would notch 29 times, an impressive start to life at Old Trafford. Law slotted into a team, being rebuilt after the horror of the Munich air disaster in 1958, alongside fellow trinity members, Bobby Charlton and George Best. Unfortunately for United, a poor showing in the league meant a nineteenth place finish. United had struggled for league form since the disaster, but the signs of improvement were on the horizon.

The following season 1963/64 was even better for Law. 46 goals, the most by any United player in one season, still held to this day. The FA cup winners were to finish runners up in the league to rivals Liverpool.

“DENIS WAS THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS, HE COULD SCORE GOALS FROM A HUNDREDTH OF A CHANCE NEVER MIND HALF OF ONE” –  GEORGE BEST

The King, as he was to be named, was rewarded with the European Footballer of the Year award, in 1964. United were on the brink of securing a League title. This time Law’s goals helped United pip Leeds United to the League. 39 goals helped the Red Devils lift the trophy.

The following season would see a blip. A fourth place finish and only 22 goals scored, would put a dampener on his United career, but the best was yet to come. The golden years of 1966-1968. United would go on to win the league again in the 66/67 season. This time entered into the European Cup. Sir Matt Busby would steer United to European glory in 1968. A 4-1 win over Benfica at Wembley would be the pinnacle of Denis Law’s career, although injury would cruelly rule him out of the final.

By this time though, injuries, specifically the knee, were beginning to blight the Scots career. His goals and appearances were starting to slow down. When Sir Matt stepped down as United boss, Law seemed to lose the drive and flair which had made him adored on the Stretford End. As United and Law rolled into the 70’s, Tommy Docherty had been installed as United boss. Charlton and Best, both moved on by now, meant that Law was the only remaining member of the trinity. Docherty tried to get Law back to his firing best but injuries and loss of form from United meant that mid table finishes were all the club could muster. Law still managed double figures in two of his last three seasons at the club.

In 1973, Law was sold to Neighbours City. Law would make his final appearance in a league game at Old Trafford in a game which will go down in folklore. Denis Law, now playing for rivals City, was facing away from United’s goal and back heeled the ball into the net, relegating United to Division two. Law asked to be substituted right away, sick at the thought of what he had done. He was mobbed by United fans as he made his way to the tunnel. Blameless for his actions as the club had declined after years of mismanagement.

“Denis Law was my hero as a player. I idolised him. When I first met him I was so excited. It was at a game in Paris, he had played in the first half and we went for a cup of tea afterwards.

“I thought: ‘This is it, I’ve made it, I’m having a cup of tea with Denis Law!’ For me, he epitomised everything a Scotsman is about. He was daring and courageous, he had that bravado about him and he had style. He was a truly fantastic footballer.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

The first star on the Sir Matt Busby way is Denis Law. A true United great. Welcome aboard, Denis.

Honours

Manchester United:
FA Cup: 1962–63
Football League First Division: 1964–65,[25] 1966–67
Charity Shield: 1965, 1967
European Cup: 1967–68
Individual:
Ballon d’Or: 1964
World Soccer World XI: 1964
European Cup top scorer: 1968–69
Football League 100 Legends: 1974
PFA Merit Award: 1975
Scotland national football team roll of honour (players with 50+ caps): inducted in 1988
FWA Tribute Award: 1994
Inaugural Inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame: 2002
Scotland’s Golden Player: Most Outstanding Player of the past 50 years by the Scottish Football Association (November 2003, to celebrate UEFA’s Jubilee)
Scottish Football Hall of Fame: inducted in 2004
PFA Team of the Century (1907-1976): 2007

About the Author

John McNicoll
Southern Red and Football enthusiast.