Crerand: Why Tony Dunne is United's greatest full-back

Tuesday 09 June 2020 16:42

Manchester United legend Paddy Crerand has described his late team-mate Tony Dunne as the club’s greatest-ever full-back.

Dunne, who died on Monday at the age of 78, made 535 appearances for the Reds between 1960 and 1973, and was an integral part of the side that claimed the 1968 European Cup.

The Irishman is one of three full-backs to feature in the club’s top 10 list of leading appearance-makers, but Crerand ranks him even higher than modern United greats Gary Neville (602 games) and Denis Irwin (529).

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Obituary: Tony Dunne

We recently said goodbye to club legend Tony Dunne. There'll be a minute's silence for him before kick-off tonight...

“Tony Dunne was the best,” said the Scotsman, when we spoke to him via phone earlier today. “United have had some great full-backs, but Tony was special.

“He was as quick as lightning, a great tackler. He wasn't the biggest fella in the world, but [he was] great in the air as well. He was just a terrific footballer. If you ask any of the players that played in the same team, they'd agree with me. He was a little lad from Dublin, and very, very quiet. You never even knew he existed at times! But honestly, what a great, great player he was.

“I knew he had been unwell, Tony, for some time. It's always a blow when one of your old team-mates dies. It's just very sad. But unfortunately we all get old.”

Crerand believes that it was Dunne’s intelligence, and not merely his express pace, that was key to his success.

“First and foremost, when you're a full-back, your job is to defend and he was an incredible defender, a great tackler,” explained the 81-year-old.

“But he had great pace and a brain to go with it. Sometimes you find people have great pace but they've never had to use their brain. He did.”

Kings of Europe, 1968 Video

Kings of Europe, 1968

As a tribute to Tony Dunne, here are the highlights from his team's greatest triumph - the 1968 European Cup final...

Dunne’s humility and team ethic were crucial to the mix, according to Crerand, in a team that featured three Ballon d’Or-winning superstars in Denis Law (1964), Bobby Charlton (1966) and George Best (1968).

“You'd never get Tony booting the ball up the pitch, because he wasn't capable of it, but he had myself and Bobby Charlton in the middle of the park,” recalled Paddy. “And the number of passes we got off Tony Dunne, you would not believe. Every time Tony got the ball, he was looking for one of us.

“You had outspoken people like myself and Nobby, George, Alex. Quiet? You never knew Tony was there! But you knew he was on the pitch. He was just delighted to play for Manchester United, coming from Dublin where there was a massive support for United.

“United found him for about £3,000 [£5,000) or something, something ludicrous,” he continued. “500 games! That just shows you how good he was.”