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Denis Law

Category: Male Player
Year Inducted: 2002

Extract from Football's Greatest Heroes by Robert Galvin. The official National Football Hall of Fame book:

Manchester United paid a British record transfer fee of £115,000 to bring Denis Law to Old Trafford in July 1962. ‘Denis would have been good value at twice the price,' Matt Busby said.

‘Denis was the sharpest striker I had ever seen, and he was also the most unselfish,' Busby added. ‘He was seconds quicker than anyone else in thought and deed.'

Bobby Charlton described his him as ‘easily the best inside-forward in Britain '. ‘Denis was a bargain,' Charlton wrote, in 1967. ‘When he's really in form, he's virtually unstoppable.'

Wiry, athletic and lightning quick on the turn, Law was ‘brilliant on the ground and underrated in the air', said Gordon Banks. ‘There was one header against me, I remember, that was almost unbelievable.'

‘Tough as teak', Charlton said. ‘Denis could never be intimidated, no matter how many times a defender kicked him.' He might retaliate, though. ‘My temperament got me into plenty of trouble with referees,' he said, ‘but it was also an essential part of what made me as a footballer.'

Over a period of 11 seasons, Law made 409 appearances, scoring 237 goals. His trademark celebration – arm in the air, hand clutching his sleeve, finger pointing to the sky – would become a familiar sight at Old Trafford.

Yet, remarkably, for all his outstanding service, it is a goal scored against Manchester United that is perhaps his best remembered. In 1974, in his last League game, Law scored a late winner for Manchester City, effectively consigning United to relegation.

It was the culmination of his second spell at Maine Road ; in 1960 City beat their great rivals in the race to secure his signature when Huddersfield Town decided to cash-in on Law's prodigious talent.

It was a frustrating setback for Busby, a long time admirer. Soon after Law made his League debut for Huddersfield , at the age of 16, Busby made a bid of £10,000 – an unheard of fee for a teenager at the time. Huddersfield turned it down anyway.

After a brief initial stint at Maine Road , Law was sold to Torino for £125,000 in 1961. Within months, Law was describing Italian football as ‘sick, ruined by money'. Turin , he said, was like a ‘prison for a footballer'.

By the time he lined up for the Italian League in a representative fixture against the Football League at Old Trafford, he was desperate to come home. ‘I don't like playing in Italy ,' he told Busby. ‘Why don't you come and buy me?' After being frustrated so many times, Busby did not hesitate.

After lifting the FA Cup in 1963, when a typically sharp finish by man-of-the-match Law set up the 3-1 victory over Leicester City, United added the title in 1965 and 1967 – the heyday of the great attacking triumvirate of Law, Charlton and Best.

But Law would miss out on the team's greatest triumph – the victory over Benfica in the European Cup final in 1968. Sidelined by a severe knee injury, Law watched the match on television in hospital.

Several years later, reflecting on Law's impact at the club, Busby said: ‘Signing him was without doubt one of my best ever bits of business I ever did.'