Andy Ritchie.

'It was a moment i'll never, ever forget'

It's been 40 years since Andy Ritchie scored a perfect hat-trick for Manchester United against Leeds.

The then 18-year old was put into the starting XI shortly before kick-off on 24 March 1979 and made the most of his opportunity by scoring three times to seal a dominant 4-1 victory for the Reds – delivering a goal each with his left foot, right foot and head.

Manchester United squad photo for 1978/79.
Andy Ritchie (pictured top row, fourth from left), made 42 appearances for United from 1977-1980.

Reflecting on the momentous occasion, 'Stitch' discussed the achievement, where it ranked in his footballing career and even revealed that he can't remember one of the goals in his hat-trick!

“You dream of it, you know,” he said. “As a United player and as a striker you dream of scoring goals, but obviously you thrive on scoring as many as you can. Getting a hat-trick at Old Trafford, as well, can’t be beaten really, and I managed to get two in my career, which was pretty short in terms of game time.”

THE PERFECT HAT-TRICK

Despite being thrown into the starting XI minutes before kick-off to replace Joe Jordan, Ritchie opened the scoring after eight minutes and doubled our lead 10 minutes later with a header. Then Mickey Thomas got in on the act to give Dave Sexton's Reds a three-goal advantage going into the break. After the interval, Leeds were able to pull a goal back, but Andy was on hand to complete a perfect hat-trick with just over 10 minutes to spare via a left-footed finish.

Despite scoring in front of the Stretford End and picking up the match ball, Ritchie still can't remember how he scored his final goal.

“I remember two of the goals,” Andy said. “The first one I think was a right-footed strike, one was a header, I think that was the second one – and usually I am absolutely spot on remembering all of my goals.

United v Leeds in 1979 team sheet.
'Stitch' was promoted to the starting XI before kick-off following a late injury to Joe Jordan.

“It [the winner] might not have been a left-footer, I don’t know, but they are superb memories. You just feel elated and getting the accolades and the applause and the ovation from the fans and picking the ball up at the end of the game are just things that you never, ever forget.”

Andy went on to score a total of 13 league goals in 42 appearances for the Reds between 1977 and 1980, including another hat-trick against Tottenham Hotspur, before moving south to join Brighton & Hove Albion.

Video
Wayne Rooney celebrates against Fenerbahce.
Wayne Rooney scored his debut hat-trick for Manchester United in the Champions League against Fenerbahce.

YOUNG HAT-TRICK HEROES

Since Ritchie achieved his feat, several United players have gone on to emulate his achievement by scoring a hat-trick on the big stage. Lee Sharpe scored three in a 6-2 League Cup demolition of Arsenal in 1990, while on his debut for the club in 2004, Wayne Rooney bagged three against Fenerbahce in the Champions League as the Reds romped to victory.

United face Leeds on Wednesday 17 July in Perth as part of Tour 2019 - click here for more details.

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