Four-midable United Defenders Are Now Legends

by | Jan 27, 2018 | Football

Over the years, Manchester football clubs have boasted some of the best defenders in the business. iNostalgia remembers outstanding players from the United back four.

Who could ever forget the talents of Tony Dunne, Martin Buchan or Roger Byrne?

Not to mention Shay Brennan, Bill Foulkes or Denis Irwin.

And then there’s Paul McGrath, Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister.

Today Nostalgia presents some unforgettable images of the great defenders who played for United with skill and pride from the 1950s to the 1990s.

They range from Johnny Carey leading out his team for the 1947 Derby match with Manchester City to Tony Dunne clutching the 1963 FA Cup.

There’s a spectacular shot of Bill Foulkes tussling for the ball against Wolves, and Martin Buchan battling against Arsenal in the 1979 FA Cup Final.

But we start with right back Johnny Carey who was United’s captain from 1946 until he retired as a player in 1953.

He made 416 appearances for United, including 112 in wartime, scoring 64 goals.

In the first of our photos, from September 1947, Carey shakes hands with City captain Bert Sproston before the local Derby at Maine Road. The match ended 0-0.

The smartly attired referee, Mr. C. Fletcher of Norwich, wears a full jacket with pocket hankie over his unbuttoned shirt.

Johnny Carey and Bert Sproston shaking hands

City captain Bert Sproston, left, shakes hands with United’s Johnny Carey, September 1947.

In our second picture, Carey leads his team off the Old Trafford pitch in April 1952 after securing the First Division championship with a 6-1 thrashing of Arsenal.

Johnny Carey

Johnny Carey leads his team off the pitch after clinching the league title, April 1952.

Fellow United legend Bill Foulkes played 688 games for United in the Busby Babes teams of the 1950s and also in the 1960s.

This places him at Number Four in the all-time record appearance list behind Ryan Giggs, Bobby Charlton and Paul Scholes.

Centre-half Foulkes won four First Division titles and the FA Cup during his 18 seasons at United, scoring nine goals. He was capped once for England in 1955.

He has the distinction of starting every single United game in three seasons – 1957-58, 1959-60 and 1964-65.

Our image shows him jumping for a high ball against Peter Broadbent of Wolverhampton Wanderers in their October 1959 Division One clash at Molineux. United lost 2-3.

Bill Foulkes

Bill Foulkes jumps against Wolves player Peter Broadbent, October 1959.

Irish international Shay Brennan made his debut for United on February 19th 1958 on an emotional night for the club. It was the first time the team had played since the Munich air disaster.

Full-back Brennan scored twice as United defeated Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. The other scorer was Alex Dawson.

Brennan retired from United in 1970 after notching up 359 games and six goals. He won the First Division title twice and played in the 1968 European Cup triumph.

Shay Brennan

Irish international full back Shay Brennan, August 1971.

Left-back Tony Dunne made 530 appearances for United from 1960 to 1973, scoring two goals. He was also a member of the 1968 European Cup-winning team.

Dunne played 33 times for the Republic of Ireland and was Irish Footballer of the Year in 1969.

Our photo shows him celebrating with his teammates after United beat Leicester City 3-1 in the 1963 FA Cup Final at Wembley.

In the line-up are, from left, David Gaskell, Tony Dunne, Bobby Charlton, Pat Crerand, Noel Cantwell, Albert Quixall, David Herd, Johnny Giles and Maurice Setters.

United Fa Cup 1963

United players celebrate winning the FA Cup, May 1963.

Denis Law scored twice for United with the third coming from David Herd.

It was a different story in the 1979 FA Cup Final when United took on Arsenal in what became known as the ‘Five-Minute Final’. It was so called because three goals were scored from the 86th minute to the final whistle.

Arsenal were 2-0 up when Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy levelled the score for United in three frantic minutes. But just as United were catching their breath, Alan Sunderland fired in a last-minute winner making it 3-2 to Arsenal.

Our image shows United defender Martin Buchan tackling goal-scorer Sunderland.

Martin Buchan

Martin Buchan tackles Arsenal’s Alan Sunderland in the FA Cup Final, May 1979.

Scottish international Buchan played 456 times for United from 1972 to 1983, scoring four goals. He was signed from Aberdeen in February 1972 for £120,000 – then a club record fee.

Although he only played 163 matches for United, centre back Paul McGrath is widely regarded as one of the club’s greatest defenders. He is also considered one of Ireland’s best ever players.

His only honour with United was the 1985 FA Cup when the Red Devils triumphed 1-0 against Everton. McGrath was named as Man of the Match.Finally in our picture line-up, Denis Irwin signs for United from Oldham Athletic for a fee of £625,000 in June 1990. Welcoming him is manager Alex Ferguson.

Full back Irwin became one of the key players in the United team that won a host of trophies from 1990 to 2002. The Irish international made 296 Premier League appearances for United and scored 22 league goals, many of them penalties.

Alex Ferguson described him as, pound for pound, his greatest ever signing.

Alex Ferguson signs defender Denis Irwin, June 1990.

If you have any memories of United defenders you’d like to share, get in touch or drop us a line on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you.