WHEN Manchester United visited WA for the first time on June 27, 1967 their clash with the State team attracted what was then a record football crowd of 20,600 at the WACA Ground.
That total has been passed several times since with Perth Glory hosting well-attended NSL finals games at Subiaco Oval – and a new record was established when Chelsea attracted a gathering of 55,522 for an international challenge with Glory at Optus Stadium last July.
Man United – who also played the State team in front of 14,000 at Perry Lakes Stadium in 1975 – have agreed to return to Perth in July, 2019, for a two-match series at Optus Stadium that will surely again re-write the record attendance books at the 60,000-capacity venue.
United will play Perth Glory on July 13 and then tackle another visiting English side, Leeds United, at the same venue on July 17.
The Perth games are expected to be United’s only appearances in Australia, but Leeds will go east to also play Western Sydney Wanderers at the new Western Sydney Stadium in Parramatta on July 21. Leeds have never played in Perth before, but took part in an international club tournament in Melbourne in 2002 when their side incluced the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Michael Bridges, who is now a football pundit with SBS.
The Red Devils brought a star-studded side to WA in 1967 and, not surprisingly, were too hot for the State team part-timers, winning 7-0 with three goals from George Best, two from Brian Kidd and one each from Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.
A few months later, the Manchester club became the first English team to win the coveted European Cup when beating Benfica 4-1 at Wembley.
The United line-up in Perth was: Alex Stepney, Shay Brennan, Tony Dunne, David Sadler, Bill Foulkes, Nobby Stiles, George Best, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, Brian Kidd, John Aston. Reserves: Jimmy Rimmer, Jimmy Ryan, Noel Cantwell.
Law was injured and missed the European Cup final of 1968. United’s team on that historic occasion was: Stepney, Brennan, Dunne, Crerand, Foulkes, Stiles, Best, Kidd, Charlton, Sadler, Aston.
The unused reserves at Wembley included Scottish international full-back Francis Burns, who now lives in Perth.
Burns had initially been in the squad that toured Australia in 1967, but a cartilage injury forced him to return to Manchester for treatment and he missed the WA game.
The WA team in 1967 was: Peter Mitchell, Theo Paap, Ron Smith, Wally Musial, Ziggy Pieda, Graham Oughton, Gerry Pettit, Alan Napier, Paul Sobek, Jim McIntosh, George Ramm. Subs: Alister Norwood, Christian Ducasse, Bobby Varlow.
Pieda was the captain-coach, Bob Brown was the team manager and Bob McShane was the trainer. The match referee was Roy Stedman and the linesmen were Barrie Greenwood and Rex Banwell.
A commemorative pennant, marking United’s 1967 tour which also included several other games around Australia, was presented to Soccer Federation of WA President Julius Re and Bob Brown.
Re recalled: “The visit of Manchester United brought to Perth the biggest line-up of highly-priced talented players to visit Australia in one team. It was a wonderful experience for our local players and losing to such a powerful side was certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
“The match was notable for the scintillating performances of Best, who scored three goals, and the elegant artistry of Charlton.
“The match was also notable for the sensational incident involving Denis Law, who was ordered off the field in the 33rd minute for having used foul language to referee Roy Stedman.”
Stedman later said that Law had made a suggestion as to where the referee could stick his whistle.
The visit of United in June, 1975 was a more closely-contested affair with goals from Steve Coppell and Sammy McIlroy enabling the Devils to prevail 2-1. WA’s goal came from George McMillan, whose earlier penalty miss robbed the State side of what would have been a memorable draw.
United’s squad in 1975 was: Alex Stepney, Alex Forsyth, Stewart Houston, Martin Buchan, Jim Holton, Steve James, Tony Young, Lou Macari, Sammy McIlroy, Gerry Daly, Stuart Pearson, Paddy Roche, Jimmy Nicholl, Brian Greenhoff, Steve Coppell, Arthur Albiston, David McCreery, Tony Grimshaw, Peter Loughnane.
The WA squad was: Saverio Madaschi, Tony Witschge, Steve Pateman, Frank Bibby, Denis Barstow, Steve Stacey (captain), Bob Taylor, Dave Brooks, Stephen Sceats, John O’Connell, Dave O’Callaghan, Ray Ilott, George McMillan, Ken Morton, Aldo Trinca, Bert Kirkpatrick.
The WA coach was Alan Vest and the match referee was Barry Harwood.
Of the WA players and officials who were involved in the two games against Manchester United, 21 have been inducted into various categories in the Football Hall of Fame WA.
Manchester United’s tour will be the first time they have played in Australia since August 2013, when they took on the A-League All-Stars in front of a capacity crowd at ANZ Stadium, winning 5-1.
The United squad will have at least one open training session in Perth, play golf at a public course and United legends will host a lunch at Sandalford Winery for supporters.
PIC ONE: Star midfielder Juan Mata expected to be in United’s team for Perth. PIC TWO: The United squad that won the 1968 European Cup. PIC THREE: The WA side that faced United in 1967. PIC FOUR: United’s Lou Macari tries to shake off WA captain Steve Stacey in 1975.