One aspect of United collecting that I enjoy is that of menu’s. Not that I am a food fanatic or anything, it’s just because they are more often than not a historic item, a celebration of another major success, or an occasion to mark a memorable game.
I must add, however, that when I mention collecting menu’s, I do not mean those Executive Suite pieces of paper that turn up with much regularity (along with that afternoon’s free gift) as those who forked out over £100 for the ‘experience’ attempt to claw some of their money back. Yes, they are menus, but they are like comparing the ‘South Devon over 40’s League’ to the Premier League when it comes to those that accompany this article.
Before kicking-off, I must add that although there are a few modern day quality menu’s, the Cream of the crop are those from the 1950’s and 1960’s, unless you are fortunate enough to own the odd pre-war one. (Pictures follow the article below)
I will start in 1968 at the Russell hotel in London on the evening of May 29th 1968. Like the majority of menu’s, it is a four page card, but while most menus are printed prior to the event, this particular item was actually done on the night as the Manchester United players were cavorting around the Wembley turf, as it gives the match details on the front, with the team line ups on page two. Menu on page three, with the back page blank – nice for autographs, but none on mine. Not on this one anyway.
A month later, United enjoyed a second celebration, this time at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, where there was a more lavish menu, not in the food sense, on the tables. This was a six page item, with actual red and white ribbons on the European Cup. The inside front page was blank, while page three gives a brief history, results wise, of how United won the trophy with a map of Europe and the aggregate scores against the various opposition.
The centre pages, showing a football pitch have head and shoulders shots of the United squad along the top and bottom, while the left hand side gives you the menu for the evening – again written in French and on the right details of the various ‘toasts’ and the evening’s entertainment, which included Freddie and Dreamers. Page six lists the United squad, training staff, medical staff, scouts and office staff, Development Staff, the management and board of directors. No-one was missed out on such a special evening. The inside back page was blank, while the back page contained photographs of the management and directors, along with the Red Devil statuette that the club presented to all their opponents.
A number of those who attended such functions were simply invited guests with no club connection other than knowing someone on the inside, enabling them to be there, where they became ‘star struck’ by the company that they were in and as soon as the meal was over, they would scurry round the tables to obtain the signatures of the players and other figures of importance. I am certainly not complaining about their actions, as we collectors are only too grateful to them for doing so, allowing us to obtain some quality items in later years.
One such menu is the next featured one, covering the European Cup after-match dinner in 1957 for the match between United and Dukla Prague.
The cover, as you can see, is slightly marked with age, which in my opinion adds a little character to it, but is when you open it up, the actual value rises tenfold due to the signatures of both the United and Dukla players. However, if you look closely amongst the signatures of Colman, Taylor and Byrne, you will find Les Olive, Chairman Walter Crickmer, Bert Whalley, Bill Ingils and rather surprisingly, Matt Busby’s wife Jean and Molly Leach, who was the fiancé of Duncan Edwards.
Why would someone ask the latter to sign?
From 1967 we have the League championship menu, larger than most, but with a hard cover which opens up to a red and white rosette on page two along with the menus for the night and a red devil. A list of the ‘Toasts’ are on three with a photo of the championship trophy on four. Photos of the players fill page five with a list of the playing staff on six. Photos of the directors on seven followed by a list of the clubs honours.
Ten years earlier the FA Cup victory was celebrated at the Grand Hotel in Manchester, where a simple card menu, with four inner pages was produced. Menu on page two and a list of the evenings dances on three, with two blank pages for autographs.
Moving forward ten years, the dream of winning the FA Cup in the wake of the Munich disaster came to an end with the 2-0 defeat by Bolton Wanderers. This menu stands out from the others, not by the style, as it is again a four page card cover with four inner pages, nor is it due to the food on offer. It is something completely different – the cabaret on offer. Many of you will, or might, be unfamiliar with some or all of the names listed, but at the time, they were big-name performers and would have cost a pound or two to appear. Names such as Max Bygraves, Harry Secombe, Arhur Askey, Norman Wisdom, Frankie Vaughan, Elizabeth Larner and the Victoria Palace Girls. Sounds more like a Royal Variety Show line up.
The 1964-5 Championship menu consisted of eight pages and as well as the menu itself and the Toasts, there were photos of the United players, the directors and the championship trophy, along with a list of the playing staff and a written appreciation of the supporters.
Prize for the oddest cover must go to that of the 1957 title winning dinner, while that of the European Cup Winners Cup tie against Tottenham is one that catches the eye. Another cover that many will like is the 1968 Footballer of the Year award one, which contains the autograph of not just the winner – George Best, but those of Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Alf Ramsey.
I will round off this article for now with one of the oddest I have is fairly modern and is from the Denis Irwin testimonial dinner. This is a small fold out issue and came in a cd case. No idea why, but it was certainly different.
For anyone interested in collection United memorabilia, why not join the United Collectors Club. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.