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Sammy McIlroy 1971-1982 419 games 71 goals

November 15, 2009

Written by: Robi Prosser

Samuel Baxter McIlroy was Sir Matt Busby’s last signing in september 1969. McIlroy has supported United as a youngster, and fellow Belfast boy George Best was his hero. When he came over from Northern Ireland at the age of 15 comparisons with Best were inevevitable and McIlroy later said ” It was a great honour for me just to play with George Best but as my father said, there’s only one George Best and there always will be. ”

Three months after signing as a professional, McIlroy made his debut for United, against Manchester City at Maine Road. In front of 63,000 people, McIlroy scored 1 and had a hand in the other two in a thrilling 3-3 draw, for the remainder of the season McIlroy spent most of his time on the bench, but still had the distinction of becoming the third youngest British player to win an international cap at the age of 17 years and 198 days, he player for Northern Ireland against Spain. Seriously injured in a car crash in january 1973, McIlroy missed many of the later games of 1972-1973, but in 19973-1974, he managed to establish himself as a first team regular.

Unfortunately the club was relegated that season, but not for long. McIlroy was an ever-present in the United side that won the second division championship in 1974-1975, and by that time he was also playing regularly for Northern Ireland.

A resourceful midfielder with an impresive goal-scoring record, McIlroy appeared in three FA Cup finals for United, in the 1976 defeat by Southampton, his glancing header might have swung the United’s way had it not hit the cross bar, McIlroy did win a winners’ medal a year later, when United defeated the reigning champions, Liverpool, at Wembley.

In 1979 McIlroy made his third FA Cup final appearence, scoring a memorable goal against Arsenal when he made a weaving run through a packed gunners penalty area before curling his shot past his international team mate, Pat Jennings. Unforunately the goals wasn’t enough to prevent United from as  they slipped to a 2-3 defeat.

In October 1981 McIlroy was dropped from the first team to make way for Manchester United’s record new signing, Bryan Robson. McIlroy responded by scoring a hat-trick against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the same day that Robson had signed on the pitch before the game.

After clocking up more than 400 appearences for United, McIlroy was sold to Stoke City in 1982, where he played for another three years before moving back to Manchester to join City. After a short spell at Bury, Sammy McIlroy spent time in Sweden and Preston before concluding a playing career that has included 88 international caps. McIlroy then embarked on a managerial career, where he took non-league Macclesfield Town into the Football League on 1997, he managed his country from 2000-2003 but they were very poor during under his management only winning 5 games out of 29.

McIlroy is currently manager of Morcambe where he has worked his magic again when they got promoted via the play-offs to the football league in 2007

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