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Lawrie McMenemy: Family came before football when I knocked back Manchester United

By Steven Beacom

Published 22/04/2016

Walking the walk: Sir Alex Ferguson and Ron Atkinson both managed Manchester United after Lawrie McMenemy turned down the Old Trafford club
Walking the walk: Sir Alex Ferguson and Ron Atkinson both managed Manchester United after Lawrie McMenemy turned down the Old Trafford club

For Lawrie McMenemy it was the one that got away, even though it was him that let it go.

Writing in his autobiography 'A Lifetime's Obsession', McMenemy recalls in 1981 when he was offered the chance to become manager of Manchester United.

At the time McMenemy was one of the biggest names in the game and had brought much success to Southampton, not least in 1976 when he led the then second division side to a famous FA Cup final triumph at Wembley against the Red Devils.

More: Lawrie McMenemy: I wish I'd done more for Northern Ireland fans

He had also won promotion to the old First Division and established the Saints as a top flight club, bringing talented young players through the youth system and attracting big names to The Dell.

Even so when United chairman Martin Edwards came calling, you would have thought McMenemy could not refuse the offer.

Reflecting on his decision, he says now: "As a manager I shouldn't have turned it down really and it would have been interesting to see what happened, but as a family we were settled at Southampton.

"I decided to stay where I was and we continued to do well at Southampton."

That he did, guiding Southampton to second place behind Liverpool in the 1984 race for the championship.

In his book, recollecting the talks with Edwards, McMenemy said: "I never talked money with Martin. I assumed money would not be a problem. It would have been the best of everything. That is the way the club is and continues to be.

"It was a family thing. I did not want to put the children through what would be a dramatic change at the very time they needed stability and both (wife) Anne and myself as a presence in their lives."

Instead of McMenemy, who was also wanted by Arsenal, Everton, Leeds and Newcastle, heading to Old Trafford, Ron Atkinson took the job. He won two FA Cups before leaving in 1986 when Sir Alex Ferguson became the United boss and changed the history of the club and football.

Belfast Telegraph

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