With his bald head and cheery grin, Wilf McGuinness is one of the stars of the sporting After Dinner Circuit.

As a former player and manager of Manchester United, his ties with the club go back a long way. When United appointed Wilf as successor to Sir Matt Busby in 1969, no one doubted the size of his task. Although he had already served the club for almost 17 years, he faced a daunting situation as replacement for one of the game’s greatest managers, in one of the most prestigious managerial seats in the business.

His playing career ended through injury when he was only 22 and he joined United’s training staff. McGuinness was involved in the preparation of several England teams, including the 1966 World Cup squad, and on 9 April 1969 it was announced that he was being appointed United’s chief coach in readiness for Busby’s retirement at the end of the season.

On 1 June 1969 he was given the manager’s job; in December 1970, he lost the position and reverted to trainer-coach of the reserve team. The concept of promoting from within had not worked for United and McGuinness had probably found it difficult to manage players who were established internationals and who had achieved so much more than him as a player. However, McGuinness’s record achieved minor successes as United’s manager – two League Cup semi-finals and one FA Cup semi-final – but he could not provide the League and European glory that the club so desperately needed.

Wilf later managed the Greek club, Aris Salonika, and then York City. In 1986, McGuinness was on the coaching staff at Bury and is now much sought after for his wit as an after-dinner speaker and football commentator. He often regales his audiences with stories of players like George Best and Bobby Charlton as well as the many characters he has come across in the business of football.

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