The Manchester United captaincy is an ‘honour, not an onus’ according to club legend Martin Buchan.
Buchan was named captain in January 1975 and went on to become one of the most iconic skippers in the club’s history. This week, Wayne Rooney was named new club captain and that has prompted many supporters who have long voiced their concerns about his dedication to the club to question what that will mean moving forward.
However, Buchan believes that the opportunity to captain United is an honour in itself. “I was very happy to be asked. I was captain at Aberdeen so it wasn’t something I hadn’t done before or something I wasn’t comfortable with,” says Buchan. “My dad always said there should be 11 captains on the pitch. I always felt it was more an honour than an onus… some players don’t have the personality or desire to be in that position. I actually captained Manchester United in my first home game after joining them. I remember that clearly. On Wednesday 8th March 1972, against Everton in front of 38,000 in the afternoon. They couldn’t use the floodlights because of the restrictions on the use of electricity with the power strikes. Bobby Charlton had been captain but was injured at Spurs on my debut the previous Saturday. I wasn’t going to question it and I wasn’t ever going to turn down the captaincy when it came around full term.”
Buchan’s comments feature in a forthcoming book on the infamous 1974/75 season when United played in Division Two. Rooney’s first official game as captain is tomorrow when United kick off their Premier League season against Swansea City and as a striker he will be looked to emulate Lou Macari, who was the last player to score a hat-trick for the club on the opening day of a season when he netted a treble against Birmingham City in 1977.
Buchan and Macari’s differing opinions of how comfortable the Second Division was is discussed in the book, and the former United centre half shared an anecdote from a pre-season trip with his compatriot. “I enjoyed a beer, but Lou’s never had a drink in his life. He once told me he just hates the smell of it,” says Buchan. “After an end of season trip to Hawaii, the players were flying back to England via Los Angeles but I was staying out there to go to Portland and see my good friend Willie Donachie who was playing for Portland Timbers. Lou was going to Kentucky – he’d married an American girl, Dale. One night Lou said, “I’m thinking of going to Las Vegas”. I said “I’ll come with you”. We both had a couple of days to kill as my wife was due to come out on the Laker Skytrain, a budget airline. The morning after I asked Lou if he was being serious – he said he thought I wouldn’t remember, as I’d had a bit to drink! Chalk and Cheese, Lou and I went to Caesar’s Palace, and saw Sammy Davis Jr in cabaret. It was a great trip.”
74/75 – the story of Manchester United’s season in Division Two – by Wayne Barton and Tommy Docherty, is out soon. Follow the Twitter account of the book for more information.