Tony Whelan: The man who has shaped so many lives
To mark his 70th birthday, we convinced Manchester United Academy advisor Tony Whelan to conduct an extremely special - and rare - interview all about his legendary career in football.
Tony is always quick to point out the teams of people who also deserve credit and that is the marker of the man: a selfless, humble and dedicated servant to United’s Academy who has helped so many careers.
As you can see in our interview, conducted by graduate Danny Webber, Whelan’s United career began as a player back in 1968 and it continues today as our Academy Programme Advisor.
Watch it below and join us in wishing Tony a very happy 70th birthday…
Tony Whelan: The Godfather
Short film | To mark his 70th birthday, Academy legend Tony Whelan reflects on a life of service to his beloved United…
A SPECIAL OCCASION
The United Academy legend celebrated his 70th birthday on 20 November and a special ceremony was recently held at Carrington to mark it.
Colleagues of the past and present attended the event, where Tony was presented with a cake, a signed shirt and a framed photo of him in the United first-team squad for a 1970 friendly match in Bermuda.
You can see photos from the event in our gallery below.
A ROLE IN RASHFORD’S RISE
During the interview, Webber reveals he had spoken to Marcus Rashford the day before and heard how grateful the United striker is for Whelan’s influence on his life. When asked if he’s aware of the impact he’s had on people’s lives, Whelan speaks passionately about his work with the Academy.
“I think it is starting to dawn on me just recently,” says Tony. “I think people are making a fuss of me at the moment and it is very humbling. I have always been so busy being busy to even think about what I have been doing, I've just been doing what really came naturally to me.
“In Marcus's case, we introduced a full-time programme back in 2008 when we had young players coming into accommodation, coaching them full-time and they went to Ashton-on-Mersey school.
Happy 70th birthday, TonyGallery
Whelan, our legendary Academy Programme Advisor, was celebrated with a ceremony at Carrington earlier this month.
“Marcus was in digs but on a Friday we used to meet after school, myself and Dave Bushell, who was then the Head of Education and Wealthware, and who has done a wonderful job, has been a really big ally of mine and we've collaborated together on a lot of things over the years.
“But I used to offer Marcus a lift home because I lived in Heald Green and it was on the way home, so I used to drop him off. Obviously, his mum, she is his wonderful his mum. His mum used to say 'make sure you knock on the door' so I would knock on the door and get a cup of tea. He lived in front of a lawn, so we would have our moments. I think it is nice that he remembers that.
“And, of course, when you are doing that, you are not expecting it to be... I am not thinking this kid is going to be a footballer at Man United. You know he has got a good chance because he is very talented. But you are not thinking he is going to become the humanitarian he has become and the impact he has made, alongside what he has achieved at the club.
Whelan's role in Rashford's rise
"Well that's really heart-warming," says Tony, when informed of Marcus Rashford's view on his influence...
“Because his journey has not been easy. That is part of his childhood. If he can think back and say, yeah, during that particular period of time when it was hard, trying to get a job in football, going to school in the morning, getting up at silly hours, coaching at night, playing games, if he can smile and think it was good as well, it was enjoyable at the same time, well that's really heart-warming.”
Happy 70th birthday, Tony, and thank you for your continued commitment to improving young people's lives.