Peter Schmeichel and Kasper Schmeichel

United's famous fathers

Manchester United have had numerous players who had either famous fathers, or children who followed in their footsteps by pursuing a career in the public eye.

For example, our legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel won the Premier League title with the Reds and two decades later had the thrill of watching his son Kasper Schmeichel achieve the same feat with Leicester City.

But from a United point of view, John Aston Snr and John Aston Jnr went one better as both men won championship medals with the club.

The elder Aston helped the Reds to win Division One in 1951/52 after lifting the FA Cup four seasons earlier and representing England at the World Cup in 1950. The full-back returned to Old Trafford as a coach and was in charge of his son when he was rising through the ranks.

John Jnr played for Matt Busby's side when they won the league in 1966/67 and followed it up with a Man-of-the-Match performance at Wembley in the 1968 European Cup final triumph over Benfica.

John Aston Jnr gets in a cross from the left wing for Man United.
John Aston Jnr says he was a very different type of player to his father.

The winger told us recently about life playing under his late father, who died in 2003.

“I never thought of it as a hindrance really,” he said. “Obviously, having a dad who played for Manchester United and England, it was something I wanted to follow.

“I was a big United supporter and the only hindrance came later on, when it was very difficult being the son of your actual trainer. When I went to The Cliff, my dad was my boss really so that posed some difficulties at the time.

“I think the problems don't come from you but from other people, who are thinking you might be treated favourably. It never bothered me, I have to say, because we had two compartments - my dad was my boss at work and then, when he came home, he was my dad. I could slot things into two different worlds.

“Alec Herd [with Manchester City in 1937] and David Herd [with United in 1965 and 1967] both won the title but I think it's one of the proudest things we've achieved, my father and myself, to win the title with the same famous club, United.

John Aston Snr poses for a photograph before a United game.
John Aston Snr was a fine full-back for club and country.

“My dad was a left-back, who also played centre-forward for the club when it was in difficulties,“ he added. ”My dad was a different player to me, much bigger physically than I was, and a very old-school kind of bloke.

“As a trainer too, he was very old school, and it's very difficult to put into words but he was a much more raw-boned fella than me. It was a different game and a different era. I think my dad's era was obviously part of the Second World War and, when he came back from the forces as he was in the Royal Marines, he was at the club as one of the original Busby Babes, whereas I was in a more pampered era. Or at least it seemed at the time!”

John Aston Sr plays blow football with his family, including future United player John Aston Jr
John Aston Sr playing blow football with his family, including future United player John Aston Jr.

Another father and son who have both served United are current Under-18s coach Neil Ryan and his dad, Jim, who made 27 appearances for the Reds and was later a distinguished member of Sir Alex Ferguson's coaching staff.

One of Neil's players in the Academy team, Harvey Neville, has a father who was a six-time title winner with the Reds - Phil Neville, who rose through the club's youth ranks himself. There are also other youngsters further down our age groups whose dads played for United.

Dipping back into United's history, Wilf McGuinness was a Busby Babe who went on to be a regular in the first team and later managed the club, in 1969/70; his son, Paul, was also a youngster with the Reds before moving into coaching and taking charge of our Under-18s.

Wilf's team-mate, Dennis Viollet, had a daughter who became a professional tennis player. Rachel Viollet has since forged a career in film production and her moving documentary about her dad, who passed away in 1999, was released in 2016.

Peter Schmeichel and his son Kasper at a United squad photoshoot in the early 1990s
Peter Schmeichel was accompanied by his son Kasper to an Old Trafford photoshoot in the early 1990s.

Plenty of other children of famous Reds have made their mark elsewhere. For example, Nobby Stiles's boy John served Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers as a midfielder. Devante Cole, son of Andy, represented England at various youth levels while on Manchester City's books and has more recently scored goals in the Football League for clubs such as Bradford City and Fleetwood Town.

Spanning sports, Arnie Sidebottom - who played football for United and cricket for England - has a son, Ryan, who has made a name for himself in the latter game as a bowler for the national team and county sides Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.

Harry McShane was an outside-left for the Reds in the early 1950s and his son, Ian, has become a much-loved actor in programmes such as LovejoyDeadwood and Game of Thrones.

On the flip side, a number of our players have had footballing fathers who did not perform for United but shone for other sides. They include Jordi Cruyff (son of Ajax, Barcelona and Netherlands icon Johan), Daley Blind (Ajax and Netherlands legend Danny), Gary Bailey (Ipswich Town goalkeeper Roy) and Juan Sebastian Veron (Estudiantes midfielder Juan Ramon). 

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