The Reds' retiring youth-football director Jim Ryan recently spoke to Inside United about his time as a player...
When I was 17, playing for a team called Cowie Hearts, I was approached after a game by a Scottish scout who asked me to come down to United for a trial, originally for two weeks, but that ended up being a month. I didn’t think I played very well in my first trial game, but I did pretty well in the second game and obviously did enough! [Jim joined United in 1963.]
It was at West Brom [May 1966, 3-3 draw]. I didn’t think I played particularly brilliantly. Still, it was one of those days where your head’s in a whirl. I had been playing really well in the Reserves and some of the lads had predicted that I would get a first-team game soon, so I anticipated it but I was still incredibly nervous.
I think it was my home debut against Aston Villa [five days after his first-team debut, in a 6-1 win]. I scored with my left foot, which was a collector’s piece in itself. I clipped it nicely – just enough to get it over the line!
That goal against Villa was my favourite of those that I scored, but I always remember being involved in the build-up to a very important goal against Gornik Zabrze, in that my shot was back-heeled in by Brian Kidd [February 1968, European Cup quarter-final, United won 2-0]. That turned out to be a crucial goal because we lost the second leg and that goal got us through.
Best player I played with
Everybody says Best, Law and Charlton, so I sometimes think Nobby Stiles must be invisible! He was also a World Cup winner, a European Cup winner and a league champion, which seems to be overlooked. But Best, Law and Charlton always get the limelight, and they were all named European Footballer of the Year while at United, which says a lot. I did have a special affinity with Denis, not least because he was Scottish!
My best United memory
Firstly, there’s the day Matt Busby called me in and told me he wanted to sign me – it was the realisation of a dream. Then there’s the 1968 European Cup final because it was a very exciting experience but also very