x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Road between Old Trafford and Anfield remains a path not well trodden

Back in 1964, Manchester United sent Phil Chisnall to Liverpool and not a single other transfer between the two clubs has occurred in 49 years, wites Andy Mitten.

No love has been lost between Liverpool fans and those from Manchester United as not a single player has been transferred within the clubs in 49 years.
No love has been lost between Liverpool fans and those from Manchester United as not a single player has been transferred within the clubs in 49 years.

The young Manchester United forward was called into his manager's office. Phil Chisnall had grown up close to Old Trafford, represented his country and three different age groups before playing 47 times – and scoring 10 goals – for United between 1961 and1964.

The legendary Matt Busby was waiting for him. If that was not enough, so was Liverpool's equally venerated manager Bill Shankly.

"Busby told me that he had received an offer from Shanks, who was stood right in front of me. He said there was no pressure for me to go. I was only 22 and, rightly or wrongly, made the decision to move. Just like that," says Chisnall.

"Liverpool wasn't far away and they had a great young side who'd won the league. I thought that I would get in the Liverpool team and my career would pick up again. It was special sitting in the room with Busby and Shankly as they negotiated my future between them. They were like father and son and thought the world of each other."

A £25,000 fee (about Dh2.45 million in today's money) was agreed for the move in April 1964.

Not a single other transfer between the two clubs has occurred in 49 years.

"It amazes me that no player has moved since," says the former inside forward, 70, "but the rivalry was not the same then. Liverpool were champions in 1964, but they were only promoted in 1962 and United were a bigger club."

A United fan, Chisnall signed as an apprentice for his local club two months after the Munich Air Disaster having represented both Lancashire, his county, and England schoolboys. He played in United's youth team with Nobby Stiles before breaking into the first team at 19.

"We stopped for steak and chips before the game," he recalls of his debut at Everton in 1961, "then we lost 5-1. I kept my place in the side though."

Chisnall would go on to star alongside some big names.

"It was an achievement playing so many games among the likes of [Denis] Law, [David] Herd, [Bobby] Charlton, [George] Best, Stiles and [Johnny] Giles," he says. "I'd watch Best beat players for fun in training and I played in his debut against West Brom. Charlton was a joy to play with, too. If we were struggling then we would look to Bobby to change the game, he was that good. He used to pick me up for training each morning because he had a car and I didn't. "

Chisnall lost his place during the 1963/64 season prompting Shankly to make an offer and him to move west to Liverpool. The transfer was not headline news and he received no abuse from either set of fans because others had played for both teams.

Unfortunately though, the move was not a success and he played just a handful of games in three years under Shankly including their first ever European Cup game against Reykjavik in 1964.

"Maybe I wasn't aggressive enough," he says. "I saw football as a game, as a nice way of getting paid and as a way of enjoying yourself – not a matter of life or death."

Having worked under Shankly and Busby, Chisnall was in a unique position to see how the two greats compared.

"Busby was a quiet father figure with Jimmy Murphy as his fiery assistant. Shanks was more like Murphy, with Bob Paisley [his assistant] more like Busby.

"Shanks was a character. In training, he would fix 5-a-side games so that he got a last-minute penalty - which he would score.

"I also remember him agitated when Liverpool played in Milan because the bells were ringing at a nearby monastery. He went over and asked them to stop. Given that they had been ringing them for hundreds of years and they didn't have a clue who he was, they ignored him."

Chisnall left Liverpool in 1967 for spells at Southend United and Stockport County, but not before registering a unique claim to fame, that of being the first player to ever touch the ball on the BBC's long-running Match of the Day highlights programme.

He still lives in Urmston, just three miles from Old Trafford.

Until retirement five years ago, he worked in a factory making malt loaf – a dark fruit bread which is a delicacy in the north of England. He is close friends with some of his former teammates and he attends the ex-player functions organised by his old colleagues.

"I don't envy the players of today, who travel to games in blacked out cars and live lonely lives in big gated mansions," he says.

"I earned about twice the working wage when I played, but I had great friends and they still are. Eight or nine of the players would go out together after games. And if I didn't do that, I'd catch the bus home from near Old Trafford and be surrounded by fans. I'd be tired from playing, but I'd have a plumber or barber berating me because I hadn't made the right pass in the game."

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