Irish Footballers that Played for Manchester United – Shay Brennan
Shay Brennan – Introduction
Shay Brennan was born in Manchester on 6 May 1937 to Irish parents. He came through the youth ranks at Old Trafford and for the vast majority of his time with United he played for Matt Busby.
Shay Brennan & Manchester United
Shay Brennan made his debut for Manchester United on 19 February 1958 against Sheffield Wednesday. It was a fifth round FA Cup tie at Old Trafford and Brennan, playing at inside left, scored the first two goals in a 3-0 win. For a player that only scored six goals in a long playing career with United he scored his third goal in just his third match for the Reds and once again it was in the FA Cup as United reached the final courtesy of a 5-3 victory over Fulham.
Brennan got into the Manchester United team as a direct consequence of the Munich air crash. His debut was United’s first match after the disaster. He made just seven starts in that 1957/58 season and just one in the following season. Brennan established himself as a regular starter in his favoured position of fullback in the 1959/60 season when when he made 32 appearances.
Brennan was extremely unfortunate to miss out on a winners medal in the 1963 FA Cup as Matt Busby picked his other Irish fullbacks, Noel Cantwell and Tony Dunne, in the starting eleven. This was despite the fact that Brennan made 41 appearances, including four in the FA Cup, that season.
In the 1964/65 season he made a record number of appearances for United, 60 in all competitions, as Manchester United reclaimed the First Division title for the first time since Munich. Although only making 17 starts in the 1966/67 season he earned another Division One winners medal. This win qualified United for the European Cup and ultimately led to the Red’s greatest triumph up to that point.
Manchester United made it to the final of the European Cup at Wembley in 1968 against Portugal’s Benfica. Three Irishmen were in the team on the occasion of Matt Busby’s greatest triumph. Shay Brennan, Tony Dunne, and the great George Best all played their part in delivering the Holy Grail for their manager as Manchester United beat Benfica 4-1 after extra time.
Brennan played for United for a further two seasons to bring his total appearance for Manchester United to 359 with six goals scored. Shay Brennan played his last match for Manchester United, under new manager Wilf McGuinness, on 3 January 1970 against Ipswich Town. He became the first player to receive a pension from United. He went to become player manager of Waterford United in the Republic of Ireland.
Shay Brennan – Republic of Ireland Career
Shay Brennan made his debut for the Republic of Ireland on 5 May 1965 against Spain in a 1966 World Cup qualifier at Dalymount Park. Brennan was the first international footballer to play for Ireland that was born outside the country. This led to the infamous Ireland / Spain World Cup play-off in Paris which Ireland lost narrowly 0-1. Brennan went on to play for his country on 19 occasions, one as a substitute. He captained Ireland in four matches.
His international career spanned a period when Ireland really struggled to make an impact. Despite a winning debut he only tasted victory in a green jersey on two other occasions and 12 of his 19 caps ended in defeat for the Irish. Shay Brennan played his last match for Ireland on 8 December 1970 against Italy in a 1972 European Championship qualifier in Florence.
Shay Brennan – Manchester United & Ireland Statistics
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