Manchester United

Nikola Jovanovic - Manchester United - Biography of his football career at Man Utd.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 01 March 1980

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      Central Defender
      Thursday, 18 September 1952
      Cetinje, Yugoslavia
  • Manchester United
    • Club Career Dates
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 2nd February 1980 in a 3-1 win at Derby County (Aged: 27)
    • Club Career
      20 League apps (+1 as sub), 4 goals Prostate cancer charity 150 x 150 Image

Nikola JOVANOVIC - Manchester United - Biography of his football career at Man Utd.


 Manchester United didn't exactly rush into the foreign transfer market when English League clubs started to look abroad for reinforcements. Players like Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa were well established at Tottenham before Manager Dave Sexton started to negotiate with Red Star Belgrade for Nikola Jovanovic, a centre-back who had scored an impressive 50 goals in 359 games. The popular Yugoslavian international joined United in January 1980 for £300, 000, a record for a Yugoslav club. He desperately wanted to play for Manchester United, a club he described as the best in Europe and even turned down better terms from Bayern Munich in order to fulfil his ambition of playing at Old Trafford. Jovanovic's main quality was his technical ability and his intelligence, but he also possessed excellent concentration, calmness, persistence and an ability to create chaos in opposing defences with runs towards goal, perhaps recalling his early days as an attacker.


Nikki became the first foreign player to play for the Red Devils when making his debut on 2nd February 1980 against Derby County, as a replacement for Ray Wilkins, who missed the game through injury. He couldn't have joined the club at a more exciting time as United thrillingly closed the gap on league leaders Liverpool and, although the league title was ultimately missed by a whisker, everyone was left with great hopes for the future. The first month of the 1980/1981 campaign saw Sexton, in the absence of Gordon McQueen, give Nikki his first league outing in front of his own fans. The big Yugoslav celebrated the occasion by scoring the Reds' first goal since the opening day of the season. It came in the 59th minute and looked sufficient to win the points until six minutes from time when Alan Brown equalised for the Wearsiders.


A major highlight of Jovanovic's season was his role in an emphatic victory over Leicester City. First half goals from Steve Coppell and Ashley Grimes put the Reds firmly in the driving seat, but after the interval the goals flowed at an even swifter rate. A United corner saw Nikki beat the Leicester keeper Mark Wallington to head the ball down and into the net for the Reds' third goal. Jovanovic then scored a second with Lou Macari adding another goal in an emphatic 5-0 win. In a blistering end to their league campaign, United won their last seven league games in a row, but could still only finish eighth in the table - a position which the club's board could not tolerate. Sexton was sacked after four seasons at the helm and replaced by the flamboyant Ron Atkinson. Hampered by a severe back injury, Jovanovic was unable to make any impact under 'Big Ron' and failed to add to his 21 league appearances and four goals for the Red Devils. He had a loan spell at FC Buducnoet from December '81-July '82 and left Old Trafford for good in November 1982 when his contract was cancelled. Nikki won 7 caps for his country and played in all three games at the 1982 World Cup. (Rob Hill)

Senior career
Years            Team                            Games   Goals

1975–1980    Red Star Belgrade              85    (1)
1980–1982    Manchester United              21    (4)
1981–1982    → Budućnost Podgorica     12    (1)
1982–1986    Budućnost Podgorica    ?    (?) 

Jovanović was capped seven times for the Yugoslavia national football team and was part of the squad

at the 1982 FIFA World Cup.