Former United player Steve Paterson looks back on his time at Manchester United 40 years since joining the club and runs the rule over the current side.
Steve signed for the club in 1974 after impressing playing for Scotland in a schoolboy international against England: “I played for Scotland schoolboys against England at Old Trafford, I played well in the game and learned afterwards that there had been loads of scouts there.
“There were quite a few clubs trying to sign me because I was pretty much an unknown up to then but obviously the lure of Manchester United was like a dream come true for a young lad from a village in the north of Scotland.
“I was keen to sign and then the following week I think Tommy Docherty actually came up and I signed a contract in the summer of 1974 but decided that I was going to stay on at school for another year. So I did another year at my secondary school and joined up with United 40 years ago this month.”
After spending a season in the reserve and youth teams Steve was given a run of games in the first team in the first few months of the 1976/77 season with his league debut coming in a 3-3 draw against Sunderland at Old Trafford, he also featured in European games against Ajax and Juventus: “My main recollection of the Sunderland game is that it was a really foggy night and I got a lot of positive press for making a long diagonal pass to Gordon Hill and he crossed it or went on and scored himself.
“We drew 3-3, obviously I was very young, I think I was still only 17 and the following Saturday I played at Leicester and came up against Frank Worthington, he was a character but I’d got myself an opportunity. I came on as a sub against Ajax then had a pretty rough experience playing in a League Cup tie at home against Everton where I came up against Bob Latchford who was a fully grown, muscular centre-forward and he treated me like a rag doll.
“We lost the game and it was a massive blow to my confidence and I didn’t get back in the first team for a while after that.”
Steve played under both Tommy Docherty and Dave Sexton during his time at the club and discusses his relationship with both men as well as how their styles and personalities differed: “Tommy Docherty was a very loud and charismatic kind of guy, obviously he was the manager who signed me and I think he had a lot of hopes for me to do well at Old Trafford.
“He was always very supportive of me and I got on really well with him. The Doc was one of those managers who said it as he saw it and if you didn’t toe the line you were quickly history. I was one of the younger lads when he was in charge so never really came under any negative attention so my memories of him are pretty fond ones.
“Dave Sexton was more of a quiet, thoughtful type of guy. He was considered to be one of the top coaches in the country at the time and was very much a tracksuit manager, probably one of the first. He was really intelligent and I had a good relationship with him, he was very good with young players. Both managers in their own ways were very good to me.”
Looking back on his time at Old Trafford 40 years since arriving at the club, Steve is proud to say that he played for one of the biggest clubs in the world but believes he could have done even better: “The highlight was being able to progress, coming in as a young lad at 17 then making my debut. I suppose that I didn’t really kick on, I had a period of about a year when I was out of the first team squad before I got back in. I was playing in different positions as well, centre-back, centre midfield and centre-forward.
“When I got back into the first team squad I played down at Southampton and had a couple of games where I came off the bench against Spurs and Arsenal. On one hand I’m proud I managed to wear the jersey but disappointed that I didn’t really manage to fulfil my potential. I think I could have probably done better as a player.”
Steve left the club in the summer of 1980 after making ten appearances for the United first team, he transferred to Sheffield United where a mixture of problems, most notably a serious injury put paid to his career in England.
He went on to have spells in Hong Kong, Australia, Japan and his native Scotland before turning his hand to management where he had his most memorable spell at Inverness Caledonian Thistle, taking the club from the Scottish Third Division to the top flight.
“I had been offered a new contract but I was very much a squad player and felt that I wanted to drop down a league and play regular football. I felt that I wasn’t quite at the standard to do that at Manchester United, I had a few clubs interested in me and opted to move to Sheffield United thinking that I would be able to establish myself there.
“Unfortunately it didn’t work out due to a combination of circumstances mainly that I picked up an injury and things ended up a bit messy. I had to kind of retire from the game which was a huge disappointment, the whole thing went to a tribunal which resulted in me no longer being able to play in England but meant that I could play anywhere else in the world which I then went on to do.”
Of the current United side, Steve has noted the progress they have made under Louis Van Gaal and believes a transitional period was inevitable after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson: “I think there’s been progress, it was always going to be a major transition from when Ferguson left. I think David Moyes was actually very unlucky and maybe another year would have seen him do as well as Van Gaal did last season.
“But they decided to make a change and bring in a world-class coach, in his early days there was a lot of changing systems and personnel but I think he achieved the minimum which was to get into the Champions League. This year is about trying to kick on and they’re being linked with top players.
“I think if they could get Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid, an experienced centre-back would be a big signing to link up with Chris Smalling or Phil Jones. They’ve already got world-class players in Rooney and Di Maria who will hopefully show his true form.
“I think they need to sign about four top players to strengthen the spine of the team. That would probably cost about £100 million which the club can afford. I think it’s going to be a fantastic Premier League this year and I can’t see Chelsea running away with it again.”