In late 2007, Inside United explored the links between football and music in Manchester. Here we revisit that piece in three parts...
When The Beatles were conquering the world, the biggest acts Manchester could offer were Freddie & The Dreamers, Herman’s Hermits, and latterly The Hollies. Not until 1976 and the first, legendary Sex Pistols show at Lesser Free Trade Hall, which spawned Buzzcocks and ultimately Joy Division, did Manchester start punching above its weight.
Young Mancunians hadn’t really needed pop idols. They had George Best. Impressionable young fans were captivated by the Best package on and off the pitch. A true pioneer, his feet were planted in two worlds: sport and entertainment.
You can trace an entire generation of musicians’ football fandom back to Best.
“Best was the man,” former Stone Roses singer Ian Brown told FourFourTwo in 2005.
“We looked up to him not just for his footballing skills,” lifelong Red and Simply Red supremo Mick Hucknall recalled, “but for his whole personality. He had pop-star qualities: the hair, the fast cars, the women…”
As introductions to United go, though, no-one, musically inclined or otherwise, can beat Gaz Whelan’s tale. Fittingly for a member of Happy Mondays, he claims his first United game was the 1968 European Cup Final at Wembley... aged two.
“My dad took me,” he explains. “He was going to go with my uncle, but he got hurt when he was putting oil in the car and it moved. He had to go to Salford Royal Hospital. Me dad had a spare ticket, so took me instead! Obviously I don’t remember it, but I was there, apparently!”
Gaz started going regularly with his dad in the early 1970s, just in time to see the last days of our Georgie. He, too, was awestruck.