John Denis Downie joined Manchester United from Bradford Park Avenue in 1949 for £18,000, making him our most expensive player, when he was 23-years-old. Sir Matt Busby gave him his début on March 5th against Charlton Athletic, when he scored the first goal in a 3-2 win, and he went on to score 37 goals in 116 games for the club.
John was a stalwart of the United team of the early 50′s and often roomed with Roger Byrne when playing away and became friends with Byrne and Harry McShane. He toured the USA with the club in 1950 and scored a hat trick against Tottenham. He won the league title and two runners up medals before leaving the club five years before the Munich Air Disaster.
Sadly he died this week after a long illness, in Tynemouth in Northumbria, where he moved 6 years ago from Bradford. He became a newsagent in Bradford after retiring from football and was a respected member of the community. In 1985 he retired and spent much of his time at West Bradford Golf Course. A series of strokes reduced his mobility but he continued to watch local football games, being a regular supporter at Whitley Bay FC.
Sir Alex wrote to him personally last year to wish him a speedy recovery from a minor stroke and enclosed photos of his career with United, which were greatly appreciated by his wife and family.
Rest in peace.