Phil Chisnall.

United pay tribute to Phil Chisnall

It is with great sorrow that we learned of the passing of former Manchester United player Phil Chisnall, who has died at the age of 78.

Phil, a product of United’s famous youth system, caught the eye as one of the most promising young talents of his time and went on to represent the first team between 1961 and 1964 before his transfer to Liverpool.

Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Alf Ramsey were three wise men who knew a thing or two about assessing rookie footballers and they all agreed that in the early-to-middle-1960s, inside-forward Phil Chisnall was potentially one of the best in the land.

The precociously gifted Mancunian, having overcome an early knee problem which had threatened to scupper his career before it had properly begun, turned professional at Old Trafford in November 1959 and soon looked set for an integral role in the Reds’ post-Munich renaissance. United boss Busby was thrilled by his talent, admiring the deft, instinctive distribution and assured finishing, and Chisnall made his senior debut, aged 19, at Everton in December 1961.

Chisnall (first row, far right) was rated highly by managerial titans Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Alf Ramsey.
A run of nine consecutive games, which produced a first goal in a 2-0 derby victory at Maine Road, emphasised Phil’s rich potential, then for the next season-and-a-half he continued to hone his talent, mainly in the reserves, before ousting Albert Quixall from the no.8 shirt at the outset of the 1963/64 campaign.

Now Chisnall shone in a revamped attack alongside two fellow promoted youngsters, winger Ian Moir and centre-forward David Sadler, throughout the autumn, earning an England under-23 call-up in November 1963.

At this point national manager Ramsey described Chisnall as “probably the best passer of a ball in the country,” but Busby, having bought the more experienced Graham Moore, elected not to persevere with the local product.

Although Phil had contributed 10 goals in 47 appearances, the United manager took the calculated gamble of selling him to Liverpool for £25,000. Now it was Shankly’s turn to wax lyrical, declaring: “Phil can do unusual things with the ball, he might be something special.”

Chisnall, pictured here scoring against Everton, made 47 appearances for the club.

Initially, the newcomer was stunned by the toughness of the Anfield training regime, admitting: “When I was at Old Trafford, I used to have breakfast before going to work. I never did that in all my time at Liverpool. I’d never have kept it down!”

Yet, despite working hard on Merseyside, he was granted only a handful of opportunities before departing to Southend United, with whom he prospered for four years, then ended his league days with Stockport County. His move to Liverpool still retains a footnote in club history as the last direct transfer between the two clubs.

Phil later returned to Manchester, running two betting shops, then worked as a plant operator and in a bakery, before he passed away this week at the age of 78.

Manchester United extends its condolences to Phil’s family and friends at this sad time. 

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