Born John Dennis Downie in Lanark, Scotland on 19 July 1925, he was signed by United in March 1949, for a then club record transfer fee of £18,000. He was recruited from Bradford Park Avenue, where he’d combined playing with working as a collier prior to making football his full-time occupation.
Bought by (Sir) Matt Busby to fill the void left by the departure of Johnny Morris to Derby County, Downie spent four-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford, making 116 competitive appearances and scoring 35 goals.
A skilful inside forward, he looked to be the perfect replacement for the popular Morris, who’d moved to the Baseball Ground after being granted a transfer request following a disagreement with Busby. The belief that Downie could readily fill Morris’ boots was enhanced further when he scored on his debut in a 3-2 win over Charlton Athletic at the Valley on 5 March 1949.
Born: 19 July 1925, Lanark
Died: 19 February 2013, Tynemouth
United debut: 5 March 1949 at Charlton
Other clubs: Bradford Park Avenue, Hull City, Mansfield Town, Darlington, Hyde United, Mossley, Stalybridge Celtic