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Obituary: Tony Dunne etched his name in Manchester United folklore, but Old Trafford exit upset him

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Tony Dunne pictured at Old Trafford back in 1971

Tony Dunne pictured at Old Trafford back in 1971

MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS

Tony Dunne pictured at Old Trafford back in 1971

Tony Dunne, who has died at the age of 78, etched his name into the list of Manchester United legends when he played on the side which won the European Cup in 1968, the first English club to win the trophy.

But while he was proud of what he delivered for United after his £5,000 move from Shelbourne in 1960, the manner of his exit from Old Trafford after 13 years of service upset the Dubliner.

His first senior club, Shelbourne, have marked the passing of the player who would help the Reds win the FAI Cup in 1960 and emerge as one of the finest full backs in the English game, winning 33 Ireland caps (1962-75) but leaving United under Tommy Docherty in 1973 soured things for Dunne.

Asked in 1999 what his biggest regret in football was, he said "leaving United the way I did, there was no shame in leaving, it was just the way I did".

A Drimnagh native and a supporter of St Patrick's Athletic, Dunne played for his local side, St Finbars before joining Shels, who marked his passing with a tribute.

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Tony Dunne pictured ahead of one of his 33 senior appearances for Ireland

Tony Dunne pictured ahead of one of his 33 senior appearances for Ireland

Tony Dunne pictured ahead of one of his 33 senior appearances for Ireland

"Shelbourne FC is saddened to send our condolences to the family and friends of former FAI Cup winning Shels player Tony Dunne after his passing. Tony had a glittering career winning a European Cup with Manchester United and 33 caps for Ireland. RIP Tony," Shels said from their twitter account.

Dunne made his United debut just months after the move from Shels but it was a tough start to life in England as he was bettered by his marker, Burnley's John Connolly.

"The closest I got to him was when we came off the field and he shook my hand," Dunne later recalled of his debut, a 5-3 defeat.

"John set standards for me that day. He ran me ragged and left me to face up to the reality that I could go one of two ways: raise my standards or accept failure at this level."

Dunne established himself in the United side and the rewards came with that European Cup win over Benfica at Wembley.

"At the end of that game I just said 'thank f*** for that. I was just so glad this pursuit of European glory was finally concluded. Most people celebrated that night but it was a flat night for me," Dunne said in United Irishmen, a 1999 account of the Irish players at the club.

"Winning the European Cup was bred right through the club, all the way through. It wasn't like playing football as football, it was like something that was within Busby.

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Tony Dunne, pictured holding the European Cup with his Manchester United team-mates back in 1968

Tony Dunne, pictured holding the European Cup with his Manchester United team-mates back in 1968

Tony Dunne, pictured holding the European Cup with his Manchester United team-mates back in 1968

"Sometimes you know he (Busby) was placing European victories over and above the league campaign. Every time you played in Europe you could tell he was different. So much pressure, you could tell it was that and the (1958 Munich) crash coming together and he was frightened at times."

Dunne's time at United began and ended with defeats, his final appearance a 4-1 loss to Ipswich Town in February 1973 but Dunne would come to be disillusioned with the manner of his exit under new manager Tommy Docherty as he was denied a testimonial.

"Docherty wanted rid of me," Dunne says in United Irishmen. "He just threw me out and it was a f****** nasty way he did it."

There was a dispute over Dunne's testimonial as team-mate Denis Law was allowed to hold his benefit game first, a glamour fixture (and a money-spinning one) against Ajax while Dunne had to persuade Manchester City to provide the opposition for his own testimonial.

Dunne claims the game yielded £8,000 but United billed him £1,500 for rent of Old Trafford and policing costs. "The way the club handled the two testimonials was hurtful to me," he said.

Having made over 500 games in his 13 years at United, Dunne played just 170 times for Bolton between 1973 and 1979.

Dunne had a spell in the NASL with Detroit Express in 1979, returning to Bolton for a spell as coach and he also coached in Norway, replacing United team-mate Bill Foulkes as manager of Steinkjer FK for a spell in 1982, Dunne focusing on a business career in Altrincham after his return from Norway.

Online Editors