53 years to the debut of Big Al

Alex Stepney made his Manchester United debut today(17 September) in 1966 in goal against Manchester City in a 1-0 win with Denis Law scoring the winner. Overall he made 539 appearances keeping 175 clean sheets. He was born on 18 September, 1942.

A snapshot of his career.
  • Cockney lad who played for Milwall came via Chelsea where Tommy Docherty released him in Aug '66 for a record fee #55,000. Immediately became No 1 choice displacing David Gaskell and Pat Dunne who had shared the goal-keeping duties during the '65 League winning season.
  • Sir Matt Busby credited him for Manchester United winning the First Division league title in '67: "The single most important factor behind our championship success in 1967 was signing Alex Stepney."
  • In a Charity Shield game the traditional curtain raiser for a new season MUFC as league champions faced the FA Cup winners in Tottenham Hotspur on 12-Aug-1967. Their goal keeper Pat Jennings scored a goal from a kick which went past MUFC defenders and bounced off Alex Stepney who had come front.
  • Alex Stepney stood his ground to not only withstand Eusebio's net bursting shot but held it firmly to keep MUFC in the European Cup final of '68 which played a major role in Reds finally realizing the dream of Sir Matt Busby of becoming Champions of Europe. Eusebio immediately applauded the save from Alex Stepney aware perhaps of its consequence. His only cap for England came against Sweden at Wembley only a week earlier than the European Cup final allowing Alex Stepney to get to know the turf better.
  • His fumble cost '70 League Cup semi-final to Manchester City losing 3-4.
  • Broke two fingers while making a save to help MUFC beat West Brom 2-1 and take an important step to avoid relegation in '73. Jimmy Rimmer kept goal in his absence.
  • 89* consecutive appearances between 07-Apr-73 till 01-Feb-75.(* many claim its 92 not 89)
  • Played in all the games of the 1973-74 season when MUFC were relegated and became the 1st MUFC Goalkeeper to play through all games in a season across the League, FA Cup and League Cup. A feat only achieved since by Gary Bailey in 79-80 and Jim Leighton in 88-89 season. The great Dane Peter Schmeichel played through all games of league season only once in 92-93 while Gary Walsh played a game each in League Cup and UEFA Cup that season! Big Al even stepped up to take penalties during the summer and Doc asked him to take the ones in First Division match against Leicester City and Birmingham both of which he duly scored. Was helpless to prevent the back-heel of Denis Law who scored the goal that led to eventual relegation for the Reds.
  • Part of rebuild under Tommy Docherty to lift the Second Division title in '74. Tommy Docherty and Tommy Cavanagh changed the playing style to a simple possession based football with short passes and Alex Stepney was asked to throw the ball to nearest defender to play from the back rather than kicking the ball.
  • Part of two FA Cup finals: losing to an offside goal from Bobby Stokes of Southampton in '76 whose shot had an unfortunate bounce that beat Alex Stepney and winning a year later in '77 to stop Liverpool winning the Treble, which MUFC finally won in '99.
  • His testimonial match was against Benfica in March, 1977.
  • Played his last competitive match for MUFC on 29, April 1978 in a 1-2 loss away at Molineux against Wolverhampton Wonderers. Left MUFC after Gary Bailey was promoted following the aborted transfer of Jimmy Blyth from Coventry due to a failed medical and Paddy Roche could not cement his place. Dave Sexton dropped Alex Stepney in a first significant change to the team of Tommy Docherty in November '77 to arrest the slide favouring Roche but to no avail. For '78 season Sexton started with Roche in goal whose confidence was shattered in 1-5 loss to Birmingham City and Bailey stepped up to face Ipswich in a 2-0 win. 
  • Played in the Manchester United centenary game on 07, August 1978 against Real Madrid in a 4-0 win.
  • His autobiography revealed how Wilf McGuinness once made Sir Bobby Charlton do 20 press-ups in a suit and how Denis Law came to know about the end of his illustrious MUFC career under Tommy Docherty.

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