Manchester United have produced no fewer than four Ballon D’Or winners. Cristiano Ronaldo was the most recent in 2008. Remarkably, the other three all played in the same team – an astonishing feat that will surely never ever be repeated in the history of football.
In Law, Best and Charlton the Red Devils boasted arguably the greatest trio ever to play in the same club side. But who was the greatest?
As a kid growing up in the sixties I wanted to be George Best. Many of us did. Bobby Charlton was certainly the most famous Englishman, especially after winning the World Cup in 1966. While the King of Scotland was Denis Law – United’s first ever Ballon D’Or winner and the only Scottish player ever to claim the game’s highest individual accolade.
What was so fabulous about the Holy Trinity was that they were all so different and so incredibly talented, each in their own unique way.
As a kid who grew up on the Stretford End watching all three it was a dream come true to get to make films with each one. My latest production ‘Denis Law – Made in Aberdeen’ premieres this Thursday on Mutv with repeat showings on the Lawman’s 79th birthday on Sunday.
While George is my choice as the most talented footballer ever to walk the earth and Sir Bobby the greatest Englishman since Duncan Edwards, Denis was the most natural goalscorer and the one who became a good friend.
I first met the King in the late seventies when, as the 18-year-old sports editor of the Altrincham Guardian, I got to write the best headline I ever had the privilege to craft.
“Local man writes the King’s autobiography” was the piece I wrote about my father Ron Gubba writing Denis Law’s first book. It was my first opportunity to meet one of my boyhood heroes, and over the next 40 years I had the good fortune to get to know the Lawman and his family.
Football apart, the crowning glory of that friendship came just over a year ago when Denis received the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen and I was embedded with 23 members of the Law family for a few days at the fabulous Marcliffe Hotel and Spa.
This unique chapter in the life and times of the Lawman provides the opening scenes for a documentary which I believe is the most definitive film to date of Denis Law’s life story.
By calling the film ‘Made in Aberdeen’ and using the city of Denis’ birth as the anchor point for the documentary, I believe that I found a uniquely authentic way to present the story of a fiercely proud Scotsman.
In his own words, Denis – who left Aberdeen to start his career at Huddersfield as a raw 15 year-old – explains: “Through all those years I still call Aberdeen my home. When I’m down in Manchester I say I’m going back to Aberdeen. I’m going home.”
The documentary is packed with tributes from some of the greatest names in Manchester United history. My favourite quote is delivered by George Best, whom we hear say: “I think he’s one of the nicest men I ever met .
“He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen and he headed the ball sometimes almost as hard as other players kicked it. He was such an exciting player to watch.”
The opening sequence sets us up with incisive quotes from an all-star cast that includes contributions from the club’s three famous Knights.
Sir Alex Ferguson: “Denis Law is best Scottish player of all time. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind.”
Sir Matt Busby, whom Paddy Crerand tells us singled out Law as his best player, says : “He had tremendous skill. He had this great asset of tremendous acceleration.”
Sir Bobby Charlton, who contributes throughout the film, kicks off with: “Denis Law was like lightening.”
Crerand starts off by declaring: “Talk about all the great players that have been here at Old Trafford – none of them was better than Denis.
Gordon McQueen concludes: “Denis Law is a hero to every Scottish player my age and younger than my age” adding “Denis is the King.”
But there is so much more to this film than tributes as we take you on a journey from Huddersfield to Manchester City. From Torino to Manchester United. From Scotland to the Rest of the World.
As we approach the 70th anniversary of the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of the whole Torino team, the parallels with the Munich Air Disaster is a poignant backstory.
Fifty years on from Law scoring at Wembley to help Scotland beat World Champions England in 1967, we witness a unique gathering of all three Scottish goalscorers – Jim McCalliog, Bobby Lennox and the Lawman – with their triumphant manager Bobby Brown.
We also see the Lawman play alongside his own heroes when he scores for the Rest of the World in a match to celebrate the Centenary of the Football Association.
Bringing the story right up to date we discover the success of the Denis Law Legacy Trust’s award-winning Streetsport charity, which is making a real difference in Aberdeen. It is a good news story that connects our hero with the young people of the City. It explains why Aberdeen’s favourite son is universally loved in the place of his birth and can still draw a huge crowd.
Every football fan who makes the pilgrimage to Old Trafford from every corner of the world is familiar with the iconic Trinity statue . . . the Lawman arm raised in his iconic salute flanked by Best and Charlton.
The record books show that Denis scored 237 times in 404 appearances for United, his haul of 46 goals in 1963/64 and his career tally of 18 hat-tricks both still club records.
But I hope that anyone watching this documentary who does not know already will fully understand why Denis Law is the King.
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John Gubba has actively supported Manchester United for more than 50 years.
A former sports reporter with Thames Television and the Sunday Mirror, Gubba has enjoyed stints with BBC’s Match of the Day and ITV’s Midweek Sports Special. Back in 1990 he set up independent production company Visionsport International and helped shape the original coverage of the English Premier League when it kicked off in 1992/1993.
He was also the man behind Britain’s first dedicated football club channel, when he launched Boro TV to celebrate Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough reaching both domestic Cup Finals in 1997. During the past decade he has made over a dozen films for MUTV, the official channel of Manchester United, including ‘Old Trafford 100 Years’ and official tributes to Paddy Crerand, Nani, Denis Law, Wembley 77 and the RTS nominated ‘We Are United: The Story of MUDSA‘
Currently in production is the self-funded tribute to the world’s oldest Manchester United Supporters Club: Malta 60 Years
Please get in touch if you would like to help sponsor ‘Malta 60 Years’ or any future episode of our TV series ‘Man Utd The Religion’