Forgotten Hero: Tony Dunne; a European Cup winner who deserves to be held with much higher regard

When listing the names of Manchester United greats, people often talk of the legendary attacking players such as Sir Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona, or Cristiano Ronaldo.

As well as these goal-scoring superstars, stalwart defenders are also engrained into the fabric of the club.

Names like Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, and Rio Ferdinand are revered fondly by fans and media alike.

However, one player never seems to get a mention in these conversations despite the fact he has amassed the eighth highest number of career appearances for the club.

That man: Tony Dunne.

Only seven men sit above Dunne on that all-time appearances list; Ryan Giggs, Charlton, Paul Scholes, Bill Foulkes, Gary Neville, Wayne Rooney and Alex Stepney. That’s exclusive company.

But why has this 1968 European Cup winner not maintained the fame and reverence of most of his compatriots?

I think the reason is likely more to do with what has happened following the end of Dunne’s United tenure rather than during it; as Dunne possesses one of the most stellar United careers of all time.

That began when Dunne was recruited as part of the rebuilding process following the 1958 Munich air disaster. He racked up a total of 535 appearances for the club between 1960 and 1973. After replacing an injured Shay Brennan in the 1963 FA Cup Final, Dunne missed just six league games over the next four seasons, during which time he helped United win the old First Division Title in 1965 and 1967.

However, Dunne was rather abruptly allowed to leave United during the 1973-74 season, on a free transfer to Bolton Wanderers. Dunne was nowhere near finished as a player at this point and continued to play over 200 times for Bolton.

In Dunne’s eyes, he felt let down by his Manchester United exit and harboured some resentment to then Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty for not doing more to keep him at the club. Dunne was also slightly miffed that his long-time manager, Sir Matt Busby, in his view did not do enough to support his testimonial. Dunne has largely kept quiet on these issues and has voluntarily stayed out of the spotlight ever since.

This was epitomised when Dunne refused an invitation along with the other 1968 European Cup heroes to attend the 1999 Champions League final in Barcelona. He said he was busy working on the driving range he runs in Altrincham, but whether that was the real reason, we may never know.

What we do know, is that Dunne has been conspicuous by his absence with Manchester United activities for the past four decades. And that is a shame.

At five feet six inches tall, Dunne was small in stature but large in personality and presence. His lightning-quick pace was ideal on the wing and helped drive United forward for their blistering attacks. What wouldn’t Jose Mourinho give for a Tony Dunne in his side at this point in time?

Hopefully one day, the club and this legend will embrace each other once again.

Written by Paul Benson

copyright: JW