The Reds who were honoured before United's Forest clash

Monday 28 August 2023 12:43

On Saturday, before Manchester United's clash with Nottingham Forest, Sir Alex Ferguson presented retrospective medals to 13 former players or their families as they now meet the qualifying criteria of the updated Football League rules.

In title-winning campaigns of yesteryear, United’s squad members often outnumbered the medals presented to the group, leading to some going without, sometimes despite ceremonially being ‘awarded’ one in public.

Others missed out on appearances made until the recent rule change, when players needed five or more outings to their name during the victorious campaign in order to qualify for a medal. These updated terms have allowed United, together with football historians, to go through the annals and identify the Reds who are retrospectively entitled to medals for their contribution to title triumphs of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

Find out below who was honoured on Saturday, when either the players themselves or their family representatives collected their retrospective medals...

Belated recognition for Reds of the past Video

Belated recognition for Reds of the past

13 former Reds were celebrated before kick-off in a special ceremony, with medals presented by Sir Alex Ferguson...

Scottish winger McShane was a diminutive, high-velocity raider whose dozen autumn outings – six on the right flank and six on the left – were highly influential in the Reds’ bright start to the 1951/52 campaign. His ball skills were a delight, he was a beautiful crosser and he packed a goal threat, delivering the late winner in the Maine Road derby in September. Alas, soon after that he suffered a knee injury which sidelined him for the rest of the title-winning season.

Quiet, dignified Mancunian Crompton was a reassuringly reliable goalkeeper who enlisted at Old Trafford in 1944. He gained a regular berth after the war and starred as the Reds won the FA Cup in 1948 but lost his place to newcomer Reg Allen in 1950. However, he remained the most solid of custodians – never flashy, usually safe, always supremely agile – and he excelled during the nine games he stood in for Reg during 1951/52, notably in the goalless November draw with Liverpool at Anfield.

The tall, almost willowy wing-half Goodwin was a high-quality, versatile footballer who might have been confidently expected to nail a regular place at most clubs but, alas for his Old Trafford ambitions, he was a contemporary of Duncan Edwards, Eddie Colman and Jeff Whitefoot, masters all. As it was, Lancastrian Goodwin still competed doggedly, topping a century of appearances before his £10,000 sale to Leeds in 1960 and contributing to two consecutive championships.
Scanlon was a loveable scamp and a very fine left-winger. For opposing defenders he was a nightmare to mark. His tearaway style usually entailed slipping the ball to one side of his minder, then sprinting past the hapless opponent on the other, often climaxing his effort with a wicked cross or a pulverising shot – his tally of 35 goals in 127 United games was tremendous for a flankman. Albert was dripping with talent but his input to two championships was limited to six and five appearances respectively because of the excellence of his rival for the no.11 shirt, David Pegg. At the time of the Munich Air Disaster, which Albert survived, he was the man in possession of the shirt and, with David tragically gone, he seemed likely to become entrenched in the team. But after dazzling for two seasons he was bought by Newcastle for £18,000 in 1960.

Bent is the one member of our group to be posthumously granted a medal having tragically lost his life in the Munich Air Disaster. The Salford-born left-back made his United debut in December 1954, and would have made many more appearances for the Reds had he not been stuck behind the exemplary Roger Byrne in the quest to wear United’s no.3 shirt. Whenever called upon in captain Byrne’s absence, Bent would step in as expertly and uncomplainingly as ever, and he was to chalk up six appearances as Matt Busby’s extravagantly gifted young side retained the title in 1956/57.

Gaskell was a flamboyant showman, a goalkeeper oozing with talent, yet had the misfortune of competing with the outstanding Harry Gregg and Alex Stepney, among others. It’s fair to say his FA Cup winner’s medal in 1963 remained his sole senior honour due to appalling luck with injuries. The Lancastrian’s cocktail of superlative agility, extreme bravery and unshakeable self-belief frequently led him into danger. Often he played when in agony. Having made his debut at 16 when called from thecrowd as a late substitute in the 1956 Charity Shield clash with Manchester City, he fell behind Harry Gregg until injuries laid the Irishman low. When given his chances David was often superb but could never quite make the starting spot his own. It was as understudy to Pat Dunne in 1964/65 and Alex Stepney in 1966/67 that he made five appearances in each season.
Geoff Bent, who tragically lost his life in the Munich Air Disaster, has been honoured for his part in United's 1956/57 First Division success.
Rightly renowned as Old Trafford’s most genial gent, Brennan was also one of the most cultured full-backs in the top flight. Early in his career he featured as inside-forward, winger and wing-half and there was a feeling that he might become just another bits-and-pieces player. But when he settled as a flank defender in 1960/61 it was clear that he had found his metier. Shay, who collected 19 Irish caps, was never one for the big tackle; rather he relied on shrewd positional play and intelligent interceptions. He played 16 times in 1966/67, having already pocketed a title medal two years earlier. Ahead would be European Cup glory.

Connelly was one of the best and brightest wingers in the land throughout a long career which, alas for Reds fans, included only two full seasons at Old Trafford. The Lancastrian, who won the title with Burnley in 1959/60, arrived from Turf Moor for £56,000 in April 1964 and was key to United’s championship triumph in his first campaign, in which he struck 20 times in all competitions. Quick, skilful with both feet and a devastating crosser, John collected 20 England caps and retrospectively earns another title medal for the six games he played before joining Blackburn Rovers for £40,000 in September 1966.

Had Ryan’s scintillating form on the training ground been translated to matchday exploits then the wiry Scottish winger-cum-attacking midfielder would have been a world-beater. As it was, the standard of competition for forward places in Sir Matt Busby’s sides seldom afforded him opportunities, though he made up for it later as an uplifting coach and, for a while, as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson. Back in 1966/67 he was granted five outings when regulars were absent, earning a penalty in a 2-2 home draw with Liverpool and never finishing on the losing side. He joined Luton in 1970 and went on to thrive at the club.
Jimmy Ryan was Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant coach in the late 90s and early 00s.
In the blink of an eye, Holton catapulted from virtual unknown to Old Trafford cult idol. The Scottish giant arrived from Shrewsbury in January 1973, an £80,000 recruit handed the onerous task of shoring up the centre of United’s porous defence. Despite the step up in standards, he developed rapidly, adding a degree of ground-level control to his aerial majesty, and before long he had collected 15 caps. Big Jim brought fearsome form to his 14 games at the outset of 1974/75 before a broken leg finished his Reds days.

When Jim Holton was seriously injured, young Sidebottom stepped forward bravely to deputise at centre-half. True, the lofty Yorkshireman never looked as dominant as the stricken Scottish warrior but he was a capable all-round footballer, quicker than his spindly gait suggested, and he filled in pluckily for a dozen games on the way to promotion.


Despite having proved himself as a natural defender – and a high-quality one at that – while serving Bohemians, Martin was usually employed as a midfield ball-winner by United boss Tommy Docherty, who had brought him across the Irish Sea for £25,000 in January 1973. The industrious Dubliner applied himself diligently to his work, tackling solidly and playing simple, no-risk passes whenever possible, letting nobody down during his eight outings in 1974/75.

Sadler receives medal from United


David Sadler is honoured for being part of the 1964/65 title-winning team.

Morgan was a world-class winger who became an inspirational midfielder, a Scottish international 21 times over and one of the key creative architects of the triumphantsecond-tier campaign. Signed from Burnley for £117,000 in the aftermath of 1968 European Cup glory, Morgan soon shone, his magical dribbling supplemented by an impressive work ethic. He dazzled frequently in his 34 appearances in 1974/75 as the Reds strove for promotion, scoring big goals against Leyton Orient, Sunderland and York, before Tommy Docherty opted to introduce the burgeoning talent of Steve Coppell. Willie rejoined Burnley in June 1975 but remains regarded by those who saw him as a magical talent.


Other players eligible for medals are Ron Davies, Maurice Setters and Tony Young. Club officials are seeking assistance to find the relatives of these former players, and anyone with information can contact the club via