Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ryan Giggs prepare to come on.

The history of United's substitutes

Sunday 07 June 2020 07:00

With the rules being changed for the rest of the 2019/20 season to allow five substitutions per Premier League match, we decided to look at some of Manchester United's history on this subject.

Substitutes have obviously played a big role for us over the years.

Think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the Nou Camp in 1999. Or, indeed, Teddy Sheringham in the FA Cup final the weekend before that famous night.

Federico Macheda's impact was utterly dramatic against Aston Villa in 2009. That was his debut and numerous other Reds came off the bench to make their bow - Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona, Robin van Persie and, more recently, Mason Greenwood are among them.

In at the deep end for my debut


David Gaskell tells the extraordinary story of how he was plucked from the crowd to play for the Reds.

It all started with David Gaskell, still our youngest-ever player, and his shock debut in the 1956 Charity Shield against Manchester City.

The rookie keeper was not expected to feature in the derby, and was among the crowd when United no.1 Ray Wood was injured. Substitutions were still not permitted back then but he was allowed to replace Wood given the non-competitive standing of the competition at the time.

He revealed all about it in United Unscripted, saying: "Somebody, I don’t know who, must have seen me in the paddock beforehand, because before I knew what was happening, Bert Whalley ran over and shouted for me to come down to the dressing room. I had no idea what was happening, but I made my way down to Bert, we went to the dressing room and he just said it. 'You're going on!'"

Substitutes were officially allowed from the start of the 1965/66 season, but only in the case of injury. Noel Cantwell was on the bench for the league opener against Sheffield Wednesday but was not required.

Indeed, the Reds waited 15 games before using one - John Fitzpatrick was the first, coming on for Denis Law in a 5-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on 16 October 1965. The only other replacements actually used that term included John Connelly (against Blackburn Rovers), David Herd (at West Ham) and Willie Anderson, in a 3-3 draw with West Brom.

David Sadler became the first sub to score for United when netting in a 5-2 success against Leicester City in March 1967.

When substitutes could be utilised for purely tactical reasons, from 1967/68, Anderson did not play in the Charity Shield against Spurs so Sadler was the first used in this respect, in the opening-day defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.

John Fitzpatrick is the first United substitute to be used in a competitive game.

The first man to play as a second substitute for the Reds was Peter Davenport. In the opening game of the 1987/88 campaign, he and Arthur Albiston were introduced during a 2-2 draw with Southampton at The Dell, with Norman Whiteside scoring twice and future Red Danny Wallace netting a beauty for the Saints. Striker Davenport replaced Jesper Olsen after Albiston came on for Remi Moses.

When three replacements were permitted, Paul Scholes entered the record books when Alex Ferguson called him on for Simon Davies in the 71st minute of a 3-0 home win over Crystal Palace in November, 1994.

By then, Kevin Pilkington had filled in for keeper Peter Schmeichel, who was injured early on, and Keith Gillespie had made way for Andrei Kanchelskis.

Watch Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's four-goal haul at Forest in 1999.

Although the rules in the Emirates FA Cup were altered to allow a fourth substitute in extra-time from 2016 onwards, this has not applied to the Reds yet.

In terms of the player with the most goals as a substitute, it's obviously current boss Solskjaer. The Norwegian hit the net 29 times in 150 appearances off the bench, including four in one game at Nottingham Forest in 1999, to leave him well clear of Javier Hernandez (17) and Scholes (11).

Legendary winger Giggs racked up 160 appearances a a sub in his illustrious career, more than anybody else. Ole is next on the list, ahead of Scholes, John O'Shea and Phil Neville.

We'll wait to see who will become the first man to appear as United's fourth and then fifth substitute in a match!