Sir Alex’s first-ever signing names his top-five United players of all time

In January 1987, then-schoolboy Alan Tonge marked a pivotal moment in Sir Alex Ferguson’s illustrious tenure when he became the Scot’s first-ever Manchester United signing.

He proceeded to become a full-time apprentice the following year before eventually penning a professional Red Devils contract in 1990.

However, after failing to break into the first team, Sir Alex broke the news to Tonge himself that he would be released from the club in 1991. At the time, the former full-back was only 19 years old.

It wasn’t until he was snapped up by Alan Ball at Exeter City that Tonge was awarded his Football League debut months after his United exit. Yet, he could only tally 27 appearances until he saw his time on the pitch tragically cut short following two operations for a chronic back injury, after which he was told his professional career as a player was as good as over.

Tonge, 52, didn’t wallow in his turmoil, though, and instead opted to venture down the education route to expand his knowledge with a sports science course. He went on to gain a PGCE in Further, Wider and Higher Education, a Master of Philosophy and a Doctor of Philosophy.

Former Red hails United legends

When speaking on The Football Historian podcast, he was probed on his top-five United players of all time – and his picks will surprise nobody.

“Top of the tree is probably Bestie [George Best],” he began. “When you talk about spectacular ability, George Best was kind of bang up there. Sir Bobby Charlton, [is] definitely up there.

“Duncan Edwards gets a massive reputation as well. It was a tragedy what happened to Duncan, playing in United’s first team at 16… you look at Duncan in some of the photographs back then – a big, massive lad in midfield for United, battling through the mud, and just a colossus of a player. So I think he’s definitely up there.

“One of my personal favourites is Bryan Robson. He was kind of my hero, really. Robbo, for me, is top five.

“Denis Law was outstanding as well, so I’m going back into the ‘60s. I’ll go with Best, Charlton, Edwards, Law and Robbo No.5.”

More Stories Alan Tonge Bryan Robson Denis Law Duncan Edwards George Best Sir Alex Ferguson Sir Bobby Charlton