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Remembering Dave Sexton’s Time At Old Trafford

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This year is a strange year in the Premier League for one single reason. A reason that’s so obvious that when I tell you what it is you’ll smile and wonder why you didn’t see it, a reason that’s staring you in the face yet you haven’t noticed it until it was pointed out.

The reason is this.

This is the first ever season where the managers are more of a focal point that the players or the teams.

This year already we have heard about Chelsea sacking Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez losing the plot after 3 games. Then there’s Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool and the TV show that made him footballs David Brent, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho the season of change at United? There’s Harry Redknapp landing the QPR job and the squatting chicken that’s Andre Villas-Boas. Even lower down there was Mark Hughes getting the sack, David Moyes and his 10 years at Everton, Alan Pardew,  Paul Lambert and Martin O’Neill.

Celebrities everywhere in a season with few players making headlines.

Managers dominate players.

Which player has lit up the league?

Marouane Fellaini? Jermain Defoe ? Michu ?

Nobody has captured our imagination.

Amidst this the professional man that was Dave Sexton passed away.

Manchester United’s manager post-Doherty after Tommy was caught with Laurie Brown’s wife and left the club. Here was a man who knew football and lasted 4 years rebuilding a team of losers.

Sexton signed Ray Wilkins, Joe Jordan and Garry Birtles to United. These 3 players summed up Dave’s reign.

This was 1977 and United were a mid table FA Cup type team with a drink culture in hopeless pursuit of Liverpool.

Wilkins was known as the crab because he was a Sexton player who cherished possession football and so went only sideways. Like Rodgers is at Liverpool, Sexton was known for keeping the ball and we were a less than exciting team who held the ball while the opposition regrouped.

Jordan was the answer. A battering ram of toothless intensity like a tall Nobby Stiles he just smashed his way to goal like Andy Carroll at his best on steroids. We loved Joe.

Then Sexton bought Birtles. I saw him play many times and he went from poacher extraordinaire at Nottingham Forest (a top team at the time) to the Fernando Torres of today. At the end it was pathetic. We sold him back to Forest.

The game that summed up his reign for me was the 1979 FA Cup final against Arsenal. We went 2-0 down only to score two late goals and pull it back. With the last kick a cross from the left was headed in by Alan Sunderland and we lost, I cried, broke my heart. Dave was a nearly man. That’s how I remember him.

Yet Sexton never lost his cool, believed in his methods, acted like he was born to the job and retained a place in the rebuilding of our club despite his lack of trophies.

Sexton is dead. But 35 years on we see the sort of team he dreamed of. A great man, United legend and someone to admire.

God bless Dave Sexton RIP.

By Steve Burrows CBE @ifollowsteve