United saddened as artist and fan Harold Riley passes away

Friday 21 April 2023 16:30

Manchester United is deeply saddened to hear that the acclaimed artist Harold Riley, a lifelong fan and friend of the club, has passed away. He was 88.

Renowned for his portraits of global figures such as Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and John F. Kennedy, Riley was also commissioned by the club to produce works of art that are still on display at Old Trafford today.

In 2009, for example, he painted 10 remarkable images of United legends including Sir Alex Ferguson, who attended a special event where the collection was unveiled - as shown in our archived video below.

Watch Harold Riley talk about his affection for United, at an event to unveil his portraits of club legends in 2009.
As the artist himself says in the video, Riley's links with Old Trafford date back to when he was growing up in his birthplace of Salford and playing football to a standard that attracted the attention of revered United talent scout Louis Rocca.

However, Harold admitted that the competition for places at the club was intense - none other than Duncan Edwards, one of the greatest players ever to grace the English game, stood in his way.
Sir Alex admires Harold Riley's painting of The Cliff training ground in Salford, in February 2000.

Instead of becoming a footballer, Riley studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and embarked on an illustrious career that earned him recognition on both an international and local level - in 2017, he was granted the Freedom of Salford, an honour that had also been bestowed on the city's most famous artist, LS Lowry.

Among Riley's pieces inspired by his beloved football club was a landscape of its historic training ground in Salford, The Cliff, as shown in our photo of Sir Alex above.

Manchester United extends its deepest condolences to Harold's family and many friends at this sad time.