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‘World would be a boring place without Paddy Crerand’ – don’t miss this remarkable feature-length tribute to unique football legend

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BY JOHN GUBBA

There is no one in football quite like Paddy Crerand – and this weekend Manchester United fans around the world will enjoy a fascinating and revealing insight into the life of one of the club’s most colourful personalities when my long-awaited documentary ‘Paddy 50 Years’ premieres on MUTV.

Signed by Matt Busby for £56,000 on 6 February 1963, the kid from the Gorbals was the Paul Scholes of his generation and enjoyed a pivotal role in a hugely successful side that became the first English winners of the European Cup.

Now one of the club’s most fanatical supporters, Paddy has re-invented himself as an outspoken football pundit and has his own show on the club’s TV Channel. His recent radio rant that followed the Manchester derby – when contributors to BBC 5Live Breakfast blamed Rio Ferdinand for inciting the crowd and being hit by a coin – trended worldwide on twitter.

It was an insanely funny piece of radio that re-inforced his cult status with United’s current stars and skipper Patrice Evra says: “The players all love Paddy.” Not that this was the first time that he has vented his fury on radio in his uniquely passionate style to defend a Red Devil. Guess who was dominating the airwaves in support of Eric Cantona after his infamous kung-fu attack on abusive Crystal Palace fan Matthews Simmons back in 1995?

This Glasgow-born Celt of Irish descent is a fascinating character adored by his fans, friends and family alike because he is a man of the people who speaks his mind and is fervently loyal. Sent off six times, he insists he never started a fight but always finished it. And yet, behind that tough-tackling, tough-talking exterior, is a man with a heart of gold.

There are many fascinating chapters in the life of the 73-year-old who briefly dabbled in coaching and management after hanging up his boots. While his passion for politics famously saw him act as a peacemaker between the IRA and his old friend John Hume back in the seventies. Then there was his spell as a pub landlord when the likes of Bryan Robson, Paul McGrath, Alan Brazil, Norman Whiteside and Kevin Moran were his regulars.

“The world would be a boring place without Paddy Crerand,” declares Brian Kidd, who used to clean the Scottish international’s boots when he started out as an apprentice at Old Trafford. Kiddo, of course, is now Roberto Mancini’s assistant at rivals Manchester City. But he remains a close friend and is one of the stars of our feature-length documentary tribute to the United legend.

Paddy Crerand looks back on the past 50 years
Paddy Crerand looks back on the past 50 years in an emotional documentary tribute

It is a film laced with tragedy as well as triumph and I expect a few tears will be shed when viewers share Paddy’s emotional trip down memory lane that begins with the Second World War when his father was killed by a German bomb.

When Paddy finally signed for United from his boyhood heroes Celtic, it was the start of a golden era that saw Matt Busby’s men win the FA Cup, two league Championships and the 1968 European Cup in a remarkable five year spell. “I’d only been at United three months when we beat Leicester City 3-1 in the Cup Final at Wembley,” says our hero, who lined up against Frank McLintock, a player he’d previously faced in schools football back in their Gorbals days.

It was a decade when George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton became the iconic names at Manchester United. All three were European footballers of the Year. But Paddy was the outstanding half-back who made Busby’s team tick.

Nobby Stiles, who reverted to a more defensive role when Crerand arrived, says: “For me Paddy signing was the best thing that ever happened because it meant I moved back alongside Bill Foulkes, which was my best position.”

In the documentary, Sir Alex Ferguson and his brother Martin both talk about their memories of Paddy in the early days. Martin worked with Paddy in the shipyard before he signed for Celtic, and talks about how they used to play football at lunchtime in steel toe-capped boots. Sir Alex recalls Paddy playing junior football for Duntocher Hibs and likes to remind everyone that Celtic were beaten 4-nil by Rangers in Paddy’s final game north of the border.

The biggest accolade comes from Denis Law who told me: “Paddy  was one of the best midfield players Scotland ever had.” Now that is some tribute from my good friend the Lawman who many of us regard as the greatest Scottish player of them all.

To fully appreciate what I am talking about you will have to watch the documentary and I am proud to say that my script has been brought to life by the narration of Bernard Hill, the Hollywood actor who starred in Lord of the Rings and Titanic.

Paddy 50 Years’ premieres exclusively this weekend on MUTV.

Watch primetime at 9pm on Sunday, February 3, or catch one of the repeat showings. You can sign up for MUTV at manutd.com/joinmutv or call 08708 486888. ‘Paddy 50 Years’ is produced, directed & scripted by John Gubba.

Why Cristiano Ronaldo would love to return to Manchester United

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BY JOHN GUBBA

When I met Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal a few weeks ago it was clear that his love for Manchester United still burns brightly –  so, take it from me, a dramatic return to Old Trafford will be no surprise if Real Madrid fans drive him away from the Bernabeu.

While filming his Portuguese team-mate Nani for a documentary I was producing for the Manchester United TV Channel, there were two key moments during our 12 day filming schedule when Ronaldo’s feelings for the Reds shone like a beacon.

The Portugal captain dismissed his national media as ‘freaks’ when they criticised his team for conceding three goals in a 5-3 win over minnows Iceland during their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. But his first  sight of me holding up the MUTV flag on my microphone brought an immediate smile and thumbs up that was genuinely affectionate.

Cristiano Ronaldo would love to return to Manchester united

It's all in the eyes . . . Cristiano Ronaldo would love to return to Manchester United

A couple of days later when I snatched a couple of questions during a press conference before his country’s showdown with Denmark, Ronaldo made it absolutely clear that Manchester United will always have a special place in his heart. It was not what he said but the unmistakable sparkle in his eyes when he spoke about United.

It was so clear that Helder Conduto, the match commentator for state broadcaster RTP Portugal turned to me and said: ” United are in his heart, there’s no question” the moment Ronaldo departed. ” One day he’d love to return to Manchester.”

A couple of weeks later, to mark Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25th anniversary as Manchester United manager, Ronaldo’s passionate tribute to the manager who turned him into a world star left no one in any doubt that he will jump at the chance to return to Old Trafford when the time is right.

The fact that Ronaldo was booed by Real fans despite scoring 108 goals in his first 111 games for Madrid has raised questions about whether or not his time at the club is drawing to an end. It will be a wrench to leave the club he supported as a boy, but no more than it was when he left United in an £80 million pound move in the summer of 2009.

It is a long time since United made a dramatic signing that took the world of football’s breath away. And the obstacles in the way of such a momentous transfer would make Ronaldo’s return one of the biggest transfer stories ever. So let’s be honest it really is a long shot – but if you ask me what I want for Christmas . . .

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ROBBIE SAVAGED BY COMEDIAN GIGGYS AFTER HIS FORMER TEAM MATE SAYS HE’S PREMIER LEAGUE’S BEST EVER

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BY JOHN GUBBA

ROBBIE SAVAGE is the star of BBC Radio Five Live’s Football Phone-In – and tonight’s banter with special guest Ryan Giggs was priceless.

Robbie Savage: “Ryan Giggs is the best ever Premier League player. And in the Top 10 the world has ever seen.”

The repisote from Giggs when Savage described Man Utd’s 1992 youth team as the best ever:

“Yeah we played in the best ever Youth team – and then there was you!.

Giggs is a genious and a comedian.

Twenty-four hours earlier it was entertainment of the highest order when another Manchester United legend Paddy Crerand made a passionate defence of Sir Alex Ferguson over the FA charge of improper conduct for criticising referee Martin Atkinson.

The Old Trafford boss is in the dock after saying he “feared the worst” when Atkinson was appointed for the Chelsea match which United controversially lost 2-1.

“You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway – and we didn’t get that,” said Fergie.

As MUTV’s brilliant presenter and pundit succinctly told the listeners. “What happened to free speech. Everyone who watched that match knows the referee had a shocker. It’s not good enough in a big match like that with so much at stake.”

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SIR ALEX FERGUSON TO THE RESCUE WHEN STRICKEN CAMERAMAN COLLAPSES

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BY JOHN GUBBA

I SAW first hand yesterday the quick-thinking compassionate side of Manchester United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson

The boss leapt into action at United’s Carrington Training Ground when his regular Friday press conference was cut short by a cameraman collapsing at the back of the room with a sickening crash to the floor.

While hardened journalists carried on oblivious to the drama unfolding behind them Sir Alex was quick to respond to the emergency when he rushed to the scene of the drama and asked me “Is he OK?”

I could see the genuine concern in his eyes when I told him that cameraman Sam Budd had collapsed and looked ill.

In an instant Fergie instructed accompanying official Karen Shotbolt to summon the club doctor and it was no less than 2 minutes before the stricken camera operator was receiving treatment.

A short while later Budd was given the all clear to leave the ground by taxi.

Meanwhile, colleagues retrieved his camera equipment, which was no longer working after taking the full impact of the crash to the hard floor surface..

But shame on ITV who turned the incident into a sick joke when they ridiculed their unfortunate cameraman and showed the footage rescued from his busted camera by a Premier League Productions producer.

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