March 11, 1972. The first national miners’ strike had just ended. Ted Heath was resident in 10 Downing Street. The Ford Granada had just been unveiled. And up in Manchester, United were taking on Huddersfield Town.
It wasn’t a particularly remarkable occasion. Under Frank O’Farrell, United were winless in 11 games, had subsided away from the title race, and would eventually finish eighth in the league. Meanwhile Huddersfield were taking on Nottingham Forest in a race to the bottom of Division One — both teams were relegated, but the Terriers took the wooden spoon, with 25 points and a goal average of 0.458.
United ran out 2-0 winners on the day. George Best got the first, in what was, in terms of numbers at least, his last proper season for United. Despite repeated absences from training and clashes with the FA, he ended the campaign with 27 goals in 54 games. The following season he played just 23 times, and scored just six.
The other goal went to debutant Ian Storey-Moore, whose move to United was, if we’re being honest, probably a mistake. From his point of view. After 10 prolific years at Nottingham Forest, Storey-Moore was attracting interest from both Brian Clough’s Derby County and Manchester United. Derby were confident that they’d completed the transfer, but then Forest announced that they’d nixed the deal. A furious Clough told the press:
I am absolutely staggered and distressed at the performance of Nottingham Forest Football Club this morning. They are depriving the game of the dignity it deserves, and I will not have Derby County brought into disrepute whatsoever by anybody in football. [...] As far as we are concerned Ian Moore is our player.
Storey-Moore was alongside Clough, and announced that he was looking forward to playing for Derby. That quote was printed on March 4; a week later, he trotted out at Old Trafford.
Though he made a decent start to life at United, scoring in each of his first three games, he had joined the club at a dysfunctional moment. He finished ‘71-72 with five goals, but could only manage one more the following campaign as injuries piled up. He eventually retired from professional football in 1974, with a final United tally of 12. Meanwhile Clough took Derby to the title.
After going down in 71-72, Huddersfield were relegated again the following season. That meant that when United dropped down to the second division for the 74-75 season, they didn’t meet the Terriers. And that meant that come this Saturday, it will have been 16,660 days — over 45 years — since the two teams played one another. Let’s hope any United goalscorers have better luck in their future careers than Best and Storey-Moore.