Manchester United has always had a little bit of Scotland at its core but this season is the first time in 114 years that United has not had a Scottish player or manager in their first team squad. Donald’s Love’s departure to Sunderland last summer marked the end of an incredible lineage that dates all the way back to 1902. I would like to look back some famous Scottish players and managers that helped shape Manchester United as a club.
It would be an outrage to talk about famous Scots in United’s history without mentioning first one of the most prevalent figures in football and without a doubt the greatest club manager of all time Sir Alex Ferguson. Many forget that before joining United, Ferguson had a successful tenure at Aberdeen over eight seasons leading them to three League titles, four Scottish Cups, one League Cup and a European Cup Winner’s Cup. Ferguson took over as manager at an underachieving Manchester United in 1986 and the rest is history leading United to win 13 League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions League titles, one European Cup Winner’s Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, one FIFA Club World Cup and 10 FA Community Shields. Ferguson retired as United manager in 2013 after leading them to the Premier League title and is the club’s longest-serving manager of all time spending 27 years at the helm. Ferguson’s crowning achievement was during the 1998/99 season when he led United to become the first English side in history to win the treble.
Sir Matt Busby is another famous Scot that played a huge part in Manchester United history and after Sir Alex Ferguson is Manchester United’s longest serving manager. Much like Ferguson, Busby is regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time. Busby took over at United in 1945 just after World War II and revolutionised the club and winning United’s first major trophy in 42 years in 1952. After this period the team was known as the ‘Busby Babes’ this was due to its youthful nature and they went on to win back to back league titles in 1956 and 1957. Busby was a survivor of the Munich air disaster in which 23 people lost their lives including eight of his players. Busby heroically returned to manage Manchester United the following season and built a new team guiding them to two League titles, a European Cup and an FA Cup. Busby retired as manager in 1969 but after the sacking of his successor Wilf McGuinness, he briefly returned to the dugout for the end of the 1969/70 season. Sir Matt Busby passed away in 1994 but the Scots legacy at Manchester United will live on forever.
Denis Law is another famous Scot that helped shape United’s history and is still the only Scottish player to ever win a Ballon d’Or. The Aberdeen-born striker joined United from Torino in 1962 and helped rejuvenate United netting 46 goals in his first season. Law went on to play for Manchester United for 11 seasons, scoring 237 goals and his still to this date United’s third all-time leading goal scorer. Law hung up his boots in 1974 after spending one season with Manchester City; he’s regarded for scoring the goal that relegated United, but that is not something that is completely his fault. Denis Law will live on long in the memory of Manchester United with a statue of the Scot on the Stretford End, also one alongside Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best outside the East Stand, opposite that of Sir Matt Busby, arguably the greatest United forwards all of time.
A more recent Scott in United’s history is midfielder Darren Fletcher who joined United’s youth academy at the age of 11. Fletcher was set to be the youngest player in history to play for United’s first team when was selected to start against Aston Villa however due to FA regulations he wasn’t eligible to do so. Fletcher went on to play for United for 13 years, making 342 appearances. The Scotsman struggled with injury and illness in his later years at the club and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis 2011. Bravely after undergoing surgery in 2013, despite fears that he would never play again, Fletcher was able to return to football and played for United for a further two seasons, before moving to West Bromwich Albion in 2015 where he was made club captain. Sir Alex Ferguson speaking to West Bromwich Albion’s youtube channel recently described Fletcher as being “a big game player.” Darren Fletcher’s most memorable and iconic moment at Manchester United was his looping header against Chelsea in 2005 ending their 40-match unbeaten run.
Are there any Scottish players around that could restore this historical link?
Scott McTominay is currently in good form for the U23’s this season making 15 appearances and scoring three goals. Although born in Lancaster, the 20-year-old spoke to Manchester United’s official website last year saying: “I’ve been to a few training camps with Scotland. I know Ricky Sbragia and Brian McClair quite well. I’m probably more Scottish than I am English but it doesn’t bother me really.” Let’s hope McTominay can kick on and continue his form for the U23’s this season, perhaps go on to restore the incredible historical link between Manchester United and Scotland.
Written by Jamie Mackinlay