The beginning of the Law legend at United
As far as star signings go, they didn’t get much bigger than Denis Law, when he arrived at Manchester United from Torino in 1962.
He was a stunning purchase, ensuring Matt Busby’s Reds were the envy of most other clubs. For the Scotland striker was a world-class talent at 22, and ready to give his very best years to the club.
The short spell in Italy may have only spanned 27 Serie A matches but it had taught him plenty about the game, learning to deal with suffocating marking from defenders and forcing him to work harder to find space.
Law may have confessed to not even particularly enjoying being a centre-forward but he was exceptionally good at it, deemed by many observers to be the most natural finisher ever seen at Old Trafford, and this was a signing to stir the senses of every Reds fan.
”In Italy, they kicked us a lot,” he once told ManUtd.com. “It was a different game really in Italy to what it was here. They marked much more tightly, people were walking with you wherever you went, and you didn’t get that in England. There wasn’t actual man-marking, that came in a bit later.”Even though I’d only had a year there, when I came back to United, I didn’t feel I was being marked by anybody! Freedom! Say, if Torino were playing AC Milan, we would be marking them with two players on each striker. That was the game and it was the same with the opposition on us. So, when I came back here, it felt like I wasn’t being marked at all and I had so much free space!
”I didn’t enjoy the football but I learned a great deal, like how to get away from people. In Italy, whoever scored the first goal, won the game basically because then they closed it down. That was catenaccio [door-bolt, the name for the defensive system then employed in Serie A]. Bomp!”
”So it was just nice to get back. I enjoyed a lot of stuff in Italy, loved much of it, but the football was awful. I was just getting kicked all over the place."
Law was yearning for a move back to England but the deal was protracted and took some negotiation to get over the line before Sir Matt Busby got his way and sealed the capture of his fellow Scot. Once the record move was announced, it was just a case of eagerly awaiting his first appearance for his new team.
Making the most of his new-found freedom in Manchester, he took just seven minutes to open his account on his debut against West Brom, 56 years ago today [Saturday]. Over 51,000 were at Old Trafford to witness the 2-2 draw and, more importantly, the start of one of the most legendary careers in our history.
It was the first of 237 goals in United colours, from 404 appearances and, if you speak to any Red of a certain age, they will go dewy eyed when reliving the marvellous memories of watching Law terrorise defences, the epitome of cool and the sort of guy schoolboys would look to imitate in the playground.
The man himself is remarkably humble considering his elevated status within the game and always keen to stress the importance of his team-mates in helping him shine in attack. “The game becomes easy when you’re playing with great players like Sir Robert [Charlton], George Best and Pat Crerand,” Law told ManUtd.com. “It was a lovely time for me. The club was just recovering from the disaster at Munich and Sir Matt was rebuilding the team. It was really nice to play with these guys.
”When you play with great players like that the game does not become easy but it is easier. I was very fortunate to play alongside some of the greatest players in the world at that particular time, and for probably the greatest manager in the world, so I’ve been very lucky.
"I just enjoyed playing football and being here at Manchester United and the fans were great.”
Denis Law – a true legend and undoubtedly one of the finest signings in the history of the club.