Sammy McIlroy.

McIlroy: 'Training with United Trinity was amazing'

Thursday 11 June 2020 16:00

For all Manchester United youth-team graduates - be it Paul Scholes, Marcus Rashford or Paul Pogba - those first steps into the senior squad can be a daunting prospect.

Yet, imagine joining a side packed full of European Cup winners, and one that boasts three recipients of the Ballon d’Or. 

Well, that’s exactly what former Red Sammy McIlroy experienced when he first began training with Sir Matt Busby’s men in the late 1960s. That side, of course, included the fabled United Trinity of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, all three of whom had previously received the highest individual accolade in football, known then as the European Footballer of the Year award.
Beardsmore and McIlroy join the Group Chat Video

Beardsmore and McIlroy join the Group Chat

Ex-Reds Russell Beardsmore and Sammy McIlroy were the guests on our daily show on Thursday…

“It was unbelievable,” McIlroy said on the latest MUTV Group Chat, alongside fellow former United man Russell Beardsmore. 

“When I first came over I was in awe of them, especially Besty, who I lived close to in East Belfast. He helped me quite a bit. He could tell I was a bit homesick, but you get through it.

“To watch Best, Law and Charlton in training was unbelievable, especially for me, for a 14-year-old lad from Belfast. It was a weird experience and it was really tough for me to settle in the first year, but the club and Sir Matt really looked after the young kids then and they sent me home once every three weeks, to get over the homesickness.

“I joined the year after they’d won the European Cup, and the club was absolutely buzzing at the time and the atmosphere was fantastic,” he added.
Best, Law and Charlton are three of the greatest players to ever wear the famous red jersey, but as a Northern Irish native, it’s no surprise who McIlroy considers to be the pick of the bunch in that trio.

“Obviously I’m a little bit biased, but he’s the best I’ve ever seen,” Sammy said of his compatriot, George Best. “He loved training; he was first out and last in, on pitches which were… well, bogs. They’re not what they are now, but he could do everything.

“He could beat people, create, shoot with his left and right foot, tackle, head a ball. Everything he could do. He was the complete footballer for me.

“Also, it was his desire to play against people like Tommy Smith, Norman Hunter, Ron Harris and John McGrath - when they kicked you, they kicked you, and you didn’t get up! But Besty was like a rubber ball, he’d get kicked and he’d be back up for more. He is definitely the best I’ve ever seen.”
Watch the United Trinity in their prime...
Presenter Stewart Gardner also couldn’t resist asking what it was like to play alongside his long-time commentary partner, Paddy Crerand.

“Paddy was a fantastic footballer,” said McIlroy. “He was a step ahead of people with the ball. He was a great passer and very rarely did he ever give a simple pass, he always wanted to make a telling pass - and Best was on a few of them over his career.

“In my day, they used to say when Paddy played well, United played well. That’s how good he was. He also liked a fight off the pitch as well!”

We'll have a new episode of MUTV Group Chat at 16:00 BST, every day from Monday to Friday. You can watch them all on our United at Home page.