Former Manchester City forward Wyn Davies couldn’t have picked a bigger night to make his debut for local rivals United on Monday September 18th 1972.
The Welsh international had transferred from the Blues for £60,000 just four days earlier and was keen to start his Old Trafford career on a high note.
The occasion was the testimonial match of one of United’s greatest ever players – Bobby Charlton – and more than 60,000 fans had turned out to see it.
They included 10,000 supporters from the Red Devils’ rivals on the evening – Glasgow Celtic.
The mutual respect between the only two British clubs to win the European Cup up to that point was immense.
Celtic became the first British club to lift the trophy in 1967 when they defeated Inter Milan 2-1 at the Estadio Nacional, Lisbon.
And United were the first English club to do the same a year later when they beat Benfica 4-1 at Wembley.
It would take until 1977 for a British club to hold the European Cup aloft again.
The bond between the two clubs was cemented when former United manager Sir Matt Busby presented Celtic boss Jock Stein with the Team of the Year award at the annual BBC Sports Review.
Celtic and United’s unique history must have weighed heavily on Davies’ shoulders as he took the field with his new United team-mates. Alongside him were players of the calibre of Alex Stepney, Denis Law, Martin Buchan and Charlton himself.
The Celtic team was no less daunting. Kenny Dalglish rubbed shoulders with Billy McNeill, Jimmy Johnstone and Lou Macari, who would transfer to United for £200,000 just a year later.
There was an expectant atmosphere before the match, although there were a few reported crowd problems. It didn’t help when some United fans started chanting for Celtic’s arch rivals Glasgow Rangers.
Celtic fans surged toward the Stretford End, and United supporters pushed back – but a fence between them held firm. Manager Stein urged restraint and the crowd obeyed.
The game itself was a skillful affair which ended in a 0-0 draw. Many considered Charlton, approaching the age of 35, the player of the match.
After the game, he delighted both sets of supporters by doing a lap of honour.
Stellar guests joined Charlton at the reception – not only from football, but from the world of politics too. Prime Minister Harold Wilson was there along with former England manager Sir Alf Ramsey.
World-cup winning colleague Geoff Hurst chatted with Charlton along with Leeds United manager Don Revie and Liverpool boss Bill Shankly. It was truly a night to remember.
Charlton would play his final match for United on April 28th 1973, away at Chelsea. BBC Match of the Day cameras captured the event.
The Chelsea chairman presented the United midfielder with a commemorative cigarette case before the home side won 1-0.
Charlton’s final goal for the Red Devils was scored the previous month when United beat Southampton 2-0 at the Dell on March 31st.
After leaving United, Charlton became the manager of Preston North End. But after a season he put his boots back on as the club’s player manager.
He ended up making 38 league appearances for the Lancashire club, scoring eight goals.
Charlton’s time at Preston was essentially a post script to his brilliant United career. His record of 758 appearances for the Red Devils was only surpassed by Ryan Giggs in 2008. It took until 2017 for Wayne Rooney to better his goal tally of 249.
Charlton’s record on the international stage was equally impressive. He was capped 106 times for England from 1958 to 1970, scoring 49 goals – an achievement only beaten by Rooney again in 2015.
After being named in the England squad for the 1958 World Cup, Charlton played in the next three tournaments – most memorably in 1966 when the Three Lions famously lifted the Jules Rimet trophy after defeating West Germany 4-2 at Wembley.
As for Wyn Davies, making his debut as Charlton bowed out, he played 16 league matches for United in the 1972-3 season, scoring four times. A move to Blackpool followed and then Stockport County and Crewe Alexandra.
His best days were at Bolton from 1962 to 1966 and Newcastle from 1966 to 1971 before his move to City. He also won 34 caps for Wales, scoring six goals for his country.
*More footballing legends from the North West are recalled in Clive Hardy’s three Around Manchester books covering the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Each book is packed with around 300 past images of Manchester along with fascinating insights and commentary from the author.
Just go to our online shop to place your order or telephone the order hotline on 01928 503777.