Former United striker Peter Coyne reflects on his time at Old Trafford and gives his opinion on the current side.
Peter joined United as a youth team player after being scouted playing for Manchester Boys.
“I was about 11 and playing for Manchester Boys,” he remembers. “They used to come down and watch our games and they invited me down to train a few times.”
Peter progressed through the youth teams and into the senior squad, making his debut for the first team in a 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa in 1976 during United’s first season back in the top flight after being relegated in 1974.
“I remember getting the bus to go and meet the team coach at Old Trafford which would be unheard of these days,” he laughs. “I got there about an hour early and when we got on the coach I sat right at the back on my own because I hardly knew any of the first team players.
“I only went as part of the squad but there was a couple of other young lads on the bus and we heard there was a few injuries. We worked it out between us that it was either me or another lad who was going to be on the bench.
“We stopped at a hotel about an hour outside Birmingham, where we had something to eat, I didn’t speak a word to any of the rest of the players. Then before the game the manager came up to me and told me I was going to be substitute.
“He said he’d just phoned my dad and was leaving him two tickets to come and watch. I was that young that I didn’t get nervous anyway, I was just dead pleased but gutted for my mate that he’d missed out on the squad.”
Peter hit the back of the net in his only other appearance for the first team in a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City, of his memories of that game and the goal itself he says: “It was a warm day a couple of weeks before we played Southampton in the FA Cup final, I knew I was playing the night before in that game and we got absolutely battered by Leicester because we had quite a few players out.
“I remember being dead upset at us being 2-0 down and I wasn’t having a particular good game because they were all over us. Then right out of the blue a chance came out of nothing, there was a big scramble and it just fell to me and I was in the right place at the right time. I just smashed it and saw it go in the top corner.
“It was at the end where all the United fans were and I just remember being mobbed by the rest of the first team players who were my heroes which was so nice and something that I’ll never forget.”
Of the manager who gave him his chance in the first team, Peter says that he experienced a contrasting relationship with Tommy Docherty during his time at the club and remembers getting the dreaded call to go to Old Trafford to be told he was getting released.
“My early relationship with the manager was absolutely magnificent,” he says. “He couldn’t do enough for me, but then as I started to learn that United weren’t going to keep me on things changed. It was a shame really because it got as bad as it could be and I just tried to avoid him as much as I could.
“I remember a couple of the lads in my age group getting summoned to Old Trafford for a meeting with the manager, then the next day they came to training and told us they were being let go at the end of the season. So if you received the call you knew what was coming, you just prayed that it wouldn’t be you.
“But I got the message to go and see him, when they actually told me it wasn’t very nice but the worst thing was having to tell to my mother and father who’d been dead supportive during all my footballing career.”
After leaving United in 1977, Peter went onto play for Crewe Alexandra, Los Angeles Aztecs, Hyde United, Swindon Town and Aldershot before eventually retiring playing in non-league football.
Whilst playing in America he briefly played with United legend George Best when he joined Los Angeles Aztecs and remembers how friendly the Irishman was towards him: “I remember George, when I used to go training at United as a kid he was always there and one of the United officials introduced him to my mum and dad in the players’ lounge after a game at Old Trafford.
“A few years later when I went to go and play in America I briefly played in the same team as George which was an unbelievable feeling. On my first day he came over to me and introduced himself, asked how my trip was, where I was staying and if there was anything he could do to help.
“Within a week he’d been transferred to another club, so I was absolutely gutted because he was sort of looking after me a little bit because I was an ex United lad. But I got to play with him a couple of times which was really good.”
Peter now works at Manchester Airport as well as coaching youth football at junior clubs and primary schools: “I’ve done all my coaching badges so I do a bit of coaching in primary schools, just trying to put a little bit back in of what I’ve learnt over the years.”
Peter still attends games at Old Trafford and was disappointed with the teams performances last season but is optimistic about the appointment of Louis Van Gaal: “I went a lot last season and it was not nice to see but even the season before that when we won the league I couldn’t believe we won it with the team that we had. I think if it hadn’t been for Van Persie having a red hot season we would have struggled but of course he got his injuries last season, as did Rooney.
“It just seemed like everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Other teams were getting better Liverpool, City, Chelsea and we were going the opposite way so it wasn’t a massive surprise, although I didn’t think we’d do as bad as we did.
“I think Van Gaal’s record speaks for itself, so I think he will command a lot of respect and hopefully he will be able to attract the best players to the club which we couldn’t do last season and needed to. So hopefully this guy might be able to do it.”
Written by Michael Garvey. Follow him on Twitter.