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Alex Stepney - Manchester United - Biography of his goalkeeping career for Man Utd.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 15 April 1978

Click on image to enlarge

      Friday, 18 September 1942
      London, England.
  • Manchester United
    • Club Career Dates
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 17th September 1966 in a 1-0 win at home to Manchester City (Aged: 23)
    • Club Career
      433 League apps, 2 goals
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Alex STEPNEY - Manchester United - Biography of his goalkeeping career for Man Utd.



Alex Stepney joined Manchester United in August 1966 from Chelsea for £55,000, a then world record fee for a goalkeeper. As Sir Matt Busby searched for the missing pieces to complete his dream of European glory, Stepney was brought in after United had finished second in the league the previous season. United had conceded 19 goals in their first 8 matches of the next campaign when Alex made his debut on 17th September 1966 at Old Trafford, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory over local rivals City and he remained an ever present within the side for the rest of the season. A further 14 clean sheets in 34 league appearances helped United to the League Championship. The following season, as United competed in both domestic and European competition, Stepney played in all but one of their games, a 2-1 defeat to Burnley.


Though the league campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, a 2-1 defeat to Sunderland on the final day causing the title to slip from their grasp, the season reached a victorious climax on 29th May 1968. United played Benfica in the European Cup Final at Wembley and won the game, after extra time, 4-1. With seconds to go in normal time with the score at 1-1, the legendary Eusebio, already with a goal to his name, was through one on one with Stepney. Alex clung to the ball as he saved down low and the rest, as they say, is history. As United attempted to defend their European title the following season, their league campaign suffered and they finished 11th as a result. Towards the end of the season Alex was relegated to the substitutes bench. He remained there at the start of the 69/70 season and handed in a transfer request, which was refused. He returned to the side soon after, making a total of 37 appearances during the season. The 1970/71 campaign saw Alex and Jimmy Rimmer play 21 league games apiece in the United goal whilst the following season Stepney re-affirmed himself as first choice, missing just 3 of United's 42 league fixtures. (Steve Drabble)




The picture of Manchester United's goalkeeper Alex Stepney was taken at Carrow Road during the

game against Norwich City.   Photo George Herringshaw.  ©


By the end of the 1972/73 season, Alex was playing under his fourth manager, Tommy Docherty being the latest. Despite his continued improvement as an all round goalkeeper, neither he nor new management could prevent United's slide. Having only just survived relegation that year the inevitable happened and the club plunged into the 2nd Division following the 1973/74 campaign. In October 1973, Stepney converted his second penalty of the season and, in doing so, became United's top scorer. They were his only two goals for the club. As Docherty brought in new blood, Alex remained and United stormed to promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt with Stepney keeping clean sheets in more than half his appearances. Docherty continued to ring the changes and Alex underwent his second spell out of the first team in October and November 1975.


He returned with two clean sheets and retained his place for the following two years. However, he was back out of the side during the 1977/78 campaign, Paddy Roche playing in 19 of the 42 League games, and in the close season he left to play football in the United States. For a dozen years, Alex was virtually an ever present apart from two brief periods and set a then record 92 consecutive appearances. In a time of so much upheaval at the club, Stepney was refreshingly reliable. In his 546 appearances, he experienced the realisation of the European dream, the end of the Busby Empire, United's first relegation since the war and the beginning of the next revolution.


He kept a clean sheet on his Old Trafford farewell and made his final appearance in a 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers on 29th April 1978. Though he gave United 12 years of organised and thoughtful goalkeeping, he will be remembered by most fans for 'that' save from Eusebio. (Steve Drabble)