There are footballers and there are footballers.
Many are simply team members, others have an ability which sets them above the rest, while there are some, with ability or otherwise who possess a defining characteristic which enables them to stand out in the crowd. Some have both of the latter two mentioned, with United having been blessed with more than one individual in this category.
We had Cantona. Ramrod straight, collar turned up. Arrogance with a capital ‘A’. There was George Best, mop of black hair, shirt outside the shorts, mesmerising defenders with ease. Bobby Charlton. Strands of hair either smoothed over his balding head, or flapping like pieces of string as he strides goalwards from midfield. Duncan Edwards easily identified out on the pitch standing head and shoulders above all others in more ways than one. Ronaldo, Scholes, Giggs, Robson and more can all be added to this particular list, but for Manchester United supporters of a certain age, there is one individual who stands above all others. He had the ability to stand way above the others and he had his own ‘trademark’. He was more than just another footballer. He was ‘The King’.
Cantona was acclaimed as the ‘king’, but he was a mere imposter. There was only one ‘king’ of Old Trafford and there will only ever be the one. No-one will take the place of Denis Law.
Long before he signed for Man United, Law was coveted by Matt Busby, but his early attempts to bring him to Old Trafford always hit a brick wall. It was the United manager who introduced him to international football, but he had to bide his time until he could claim him as his own.
Ask Sir Alex Ferguson to name his favourite ever player, he will take a fraction of a second to reply – ‘Denis Law’.
Law was the devil in disguise. A placid individual off the pitch, but once that white line was crossed he was a totally different person altogether. If he was kicked, then he would not wait until he counted to ten before seeking retribution. He would rarely get past two!
He had a will to win, but most of all, he could conjure a goal out of nothing. He didn’t need a half chance, just the mere sniff of the ball would do and it was in the back of the net in a flash. He would also score the unexpected, moving his body like a contortionist in an attempt to reach the ball and sending it past another unfortunate custodian.
14 European Cup goals between 1965 and 1969, European Footballer of the year in 1964, 41 FA Cup goals – a record that stood until 1996, 171 League goals in 11 season, United’s top scorer in five different seasons, 18 hat tricks, including a record seven in season 1963-64, the list goes on.
But it isn’t simply the skill, the panache and the goals that stand out in the memory, there was the shirt cuffs pulled own and grasped tightly and much more defining was the upraised arm, finger pointing skywards, as yet another goal was celebrated.
For those who saw him in action, he will never be forgotten, who cares about ‘that’ goal for City, Denis Law will ever be remembered as a Manchester United player. One of the greatest Manchester United players. Few would argue if you changed that last sentence to – ‘the greatest ever Manchester United player’.
Long live the KING!
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