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Comment: Manchester Law Meant City Relegated United In 1974

Earlier this year - May to be precise - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson unveiled a homage to three former sons of the club. Set in bronze by Scottish sculptor Phillip Jackson was a statue depicting three Great British legends: World Cup winner and Munich survivor Bobby Charlton; legendary number 7 and naturally gifted George Best; and pacy skilful striker Denis Law. 'The United Trinity' as it was known was set to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Old Trafford firm lifting the European Cup for the first time.

For many Manchester United fans, Law was the favoured of the trinity. He was signed by the club in 1962 for a then record purchase of £115,000... seems a pittance compared to the stratospheric fees being bandied about for players possessing just a modicum of talent, but that's the modern market for you. Law was a goalscorer, and worth every penny of his six-figure sum.

Everyone knows Cristiano Ronaldo and his well-publicised goal-scoring haul last season, 42 to be exact, but the Portuguese winger was still four shy of Denis Law's prolific second term (1964) in the North West, when he bagged 46. He was 'The Lawman', or simply 'The King' to the Stretford Enders. European Player of the Year. A domestic champion the following year. And in 1968 he was part of a side that became the first English representative to lift the European Cup.

He was a feared forward. Known for unforgiving pace (helped by his slight frame in comparison to the brickhouse British defenders slugging their way around the backline at the time) with a deft touch and an effervescent zip in and around the penalty area. Not only good with his feet he also boasted great strength and skill in the air. A United legend, of that there is no doubt; but for all the good he did for the club, he also had a helping hand in their relegation during a barren decade in the 1970s.

Either side of his 11 years as a Red Devil, Law spent two spells at local rivals Manchester City. The first arrived in the 1960-61 season, five years after making his professional debut for Huddersfield Town. He scored a sound enough one goal for every two games played before joining Torino briefly, and then United.

He returned to the blue side of Manchester for one further season to end his career in the 1973-74 campaign.

Six years after winning the European Cup, Manchester United saw themselves slide down the First Division ladder and, on the last day of the season - April 27 1974 - local rivals City and United lined up at Old Trafford and Law's instinctive backheel into United's goal sealed their fate and relegated them to the Second Division (results later that day would have seen them doomed anyway). Law though remained gracious in the aftermath of his goal. Ever the gentleman he refused to celebrate his actions, knowing that on his last game as a professional he had damned his former club. He later said:

"I have seldom felt so depressed in my life as I did that weekend. After 19 years of giving everything I had to score goals, I had finally scored one which I almost wished I hadn't."

The Manchester derby may not be as nationally/globally anticipated as the north London derby, but it certainly brings up as many talking points. The two Manc sides line up this Sunday, and if recent trends are anything to go by (the fiery battles of the '70s, Law's goal of 1974, City not beating United once in the '90s, Roy Keane setting out to deliberately injure Alf Inge Håland,) then rest assured, with City's mega money and United's misfiring in their past two games, the impartial observer (and indeed fans of both clubs) may well be in for further treats by the end of this week.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is Denis Law your favourite  member of the 'United Trinity?' Will his record of 46 goals in a season ever be broken by a member of the current squad? Which club will prevail on Sunday? wants to know what YOU think!!!

Alan Dawson,

Caveat: Do not read if you are an Arsenal fan...
The legend of Denis Law was not restricted to Manchester, or even the United Kingdom for that matter. The Scottish striker had such an impact around the continent that two football fanatical parents in the Netherlands named their son after him. Dutch authorities refused to recognise the name with only the one 'n' as it was deemed too close to Denise. So they had to double up. Their blond-haired bambino boy later went on to play for Arsenal, and was recently named one of the greatest Gunners to have ever played for the club.