How good was Duncan Edwards?

redmanx

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Back in the 1950's the FA Cup Final was the biggest domestic match and the only club match covered live and in full.
There was no weekly TV Football show in UK (Match of the Day started in 1964).
Sadly so much of our football heritage is lost so it's anybody's guess as to how good Edwards, Matthews, Finney etc were but those who attended United matches through the generations held him in the highest esteem.
Ive always believed that if the top players from the past all had the advantages and benefits of todays player, ie fitness, speed, power, strength, diet, health care, etc then the likes of Matthews, Finney, Edwards, Charles, Pele, Eusabio, Di Stefano, Greaves, Charlton, Law, Best, Baxter, etc etc would be comparable with the stars of today. The likes of Finney etc played on mud with leather case ball which, when wet, acted like a medicine ball, but they could control it with the same skill modern players control the much lighter, computer designed balls they play with today. The great players are born with great skill and thats the same in any era, its the physical, dietry and health benefits of the modern era which is the difference.
 

Gentleman Jim

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Ive always believed that if the top players from the past all had the advantages and benefits of todays player, ie fitness, speed, power, strength, diet, health care, etc then the likes of Matthews, Finney, Edwards, Charles, Pele, Eusabio, Di Stefano, Greaves, Charlton, Law, Best, Baxter, etc etc would be comparable with the stars of today. The likes of Finney etc played on mud with leather case ball which, when wet, acted like a medicine ball, but they could control it with the same skill modern players control the much lighter, computer designed balls they play with today. The great players are born with great skill and thats the same in any era, its the physical, dietry and health benefits of the modern era which is the difference.
Agreed.
The modern advantages afforded football players and participants in other sports distort the achievements of current participants to the detriment of those from previous eras.
This current obsession with labelling people the "goat" is pointless.
 

Salwan

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wow, thank you for the video footage!

you can see that he had an eye for the quick long pass, he got stuck in and moved well.
all this as an 18y old in his England debut mind you. he probably played a more positionally disciplined role with all the superstars around him.
 

Dansk

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It's frankly impossible to determine how good players were in those days, other than to say that they were good compared to other players at the time. Back then, football was so basic, life was so different, and most players were downright awful, so anyone with a bit of natural talent stood out. I once made a post about some of Charlton's goals and pointed out how comically inept the surrounding players were. Often, the opposition barely participated. There was one where he calmly strolls up the entire midfield with the ball and takes a shot and scores from a fair distance, and opposition players barely pay attention to him. There was another one where three United players are inside the opposition's goal area and no defenders are anywhere nearby, so he scores an impressive-looking volley. But if you look at the game as a whole, it's clear that it took very little to stand out compared to today, so it's largely pointless to judge players from that time. The best we can say is that Edwards was noticeably better than his peers, but odds are that if he had travelled through time and arrived anywhere after 1990, he might not be good enough to make a living as a footballer at all. It's like reviewing the first automobile. It'll be utter garbage compared to the worst cars today.
 
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Chesterlestreet

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Where is the harm, if you love football, of watching other teams play?
No harm at all, if you ask me.

I've been to most major grounds in England (and Scotland) as a neutral - but, of course, when I did that, I made sure that I was perceived as a neutral (or at least I tried to - by securing tickets in the less "tribal" sections of the ground).
 

Maticmaker

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I very much doubt anyone on here has seen him live as they would be in their very late 70s/80s by now.
I did (76) I saw him once, at OT I was about 9/10 years old, think it was game against Wolves, and I think it was 1956/57 season, at least it was obviously prior to Munich . My uncle took me to the game (my first) and we were in the United Road Paddock. I was right up against the fence (all the kids were in them days) and suddenly right in front of me these two massive legs appeared on the track that ran around the pitch and the player seized the ball and hurled it back on to the pitch, I turned to look up at my uncle and he said 'that's our Duncan, lad".... sorry that's all I can remember, he was a giant with 'tree-trunks' for legs!
 

harms

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I did (76) I saw him once, at OT I was about 9/10 years old, think it was game against Wolves, and I think it was 1956/57 season, at least it was obviously prior to Munich . My uncle took me to the game (my first) and we were in the United Road Paddock. I was right up against the fence (all the kids were in them days) and suddenly right in front of me these two massive legs appeared on the track that ran around the pitch and the player seized the ball and hurled it back on to the pitch, I turned to look up at my uncle and he said 'that's our Duncan, lad".... sorry that's all I can remember, he was a giant with 'tree-trunks' for legs!
Lovely story.
 

redmanx

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I did (76) I saw him once, at OT I was about 9/10 years old, think it was game against Wolves, and I think it was 1956/57 season, at least it was obviously prior to Munich . My uncle took me to the game (my first) and we were in the United Road Paddock. I was right up against the fence (all the kids were in them days) and suddenly right in front of me these two massive legs appeared on the track that ran around the pitch and the player seized the ball and hurled it back on to the pitch, I turned to look up at my uncle and he said 'that's our Duncan, lad".... sorry that's all I can remember, he was a giant with 'tree-trunks' for legs!
My father, now 92, was a regular at Old Trafford in the 50s even though he lived in London; he has always said "Big Dunc" was the best he had seen, and hes seen, live, the likes of Pele, Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento, Best and Eusabio in their prime. Dads became a United supporter during The Babes era, even though he was born in Newcastle, and he started taking me to games when I was about 6 years old. Denis Law was the most exciting player I ever saw, but for Dad its Duncan Edwards. He had a program from a match in 1956 v Arsenal which Duncan signed, along with Liam Whelan and Johnny Berry; Whelan and Berry scored in 2-1 victory at Highbury. Sadly the program was lost when we moved home in 1963.
 

Trequarista10

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It's frankly impossible to determine how good players were in those days, other than to say that they were good compared to other players at the time. Back then, football was so basic, life was so different, and most players were downright awful, so anyone with a bit of natural talent stood out. I once made a post about some of Charlton's goals and pointed out how comically inept the surrounding players were. Often, the opposition barely participated. There was one where he calmly strolls up the entire midfield with the ball and takes a shot and scores from a fair distance, and opposition players barely pay attention to him. There was another one where three United players are inside the opposition's goal area and no defenders are anywhere nearby, so he scores an impressive-looking volley. But if you look at the game as a whole, it's clear that it took very little to stand out compared to today, so it's largely pointless to judge players from that time. The best we can say is that Edwards was noticeably better than his peers, but odds are that if he had travelled through time and arrived anywhere after 1990, he might not be good enough to make a living as a footballer at all. It's like reviewing the first automobile. It'll be utter garbage compared to the worst cars today.
I think you're being a tad harsh. Football was different then for a number of reasons. Not only has physicality improved as a result of diet, training, facilities, sports science etc, but also in those days - balls were way heavier, boots were heavier, pitches were "heavier" (muddy, scuffed). The result of all this combined was a game at a slower pace, teams more stretched/less compact in their shape.

Obviously if a footballer from 60 years ago was teleported to today and had to play immediately they would struggle. Give them a few months of conditioning and practise with modern balls, boots and tactics, and the best then would obviously make it today. The skill, intelligence, determination and creativity, courage that made them the best of their era, would be the same core attributes needed to become a footballer today. Likewise, take a modern player, time travel them back 60 years to play on old pitches, with old balls, and a few months without the modern support aides, and they'd struggle at first but in time would adapt.

I've never understood this argument when analysing players from previous generations. All of this should be a given, it shouldn't even need to be said. What matters is the skill relative to their peers. Perhaps a chess comparison may make sense to people. Paul Morphy is considered one of the greatest players to have ever lived, and destroyed his peers. Today, if he played the same moves that he played then against an average competitive player he would likely lose - the modern players have over a century of games and positions that have been analysed, and strategies have been refined. The modern player can learn from this century plus of knowledge relatively quickly. Morphy on the otherhand had virtually zero pre-existing knowledge and analysis to use as a starting point. On his own, he came up with strategies and concepts which not only separated him from his peers, but which are still prevalent in chess to this day. Was he better than today's average competitor? Hell yes! Was he better than more recent world champions like Fischer, Kasparov or Carlsen? Nobody can possibly say!
 

psychdelicblues

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I think you're being a tad harsh. Football was different then for a number of reasons. Not only has physicality improved as a result of diet, training, facilities, sports science etc, but also in those days - balls were way heavier, boots were heavier, pitches were "heavier" (muddy, scuffed). The result of all this combined was a game at a slower pace, teams more stretched/less compact in their shape.

Obviously if a footballer from 60 years ago was teleported to today and had to play immediately they would struggle. Give them a few months of conditioning and practise with modern balls, boots and tactics, and the best then would obviously make it today. The skill, intelligence, determination and creativity, courage that made them the best of their era, would be the same core attributes needed to become a footballer today. Likewise, take a modern player, time travel them back 60 years to play on old pitches, with old balls, and a few months without the modern support aides, and they'd struggle at first but in time would adapt.

I've never understood this argument when analysing players from previous generations. All of this should be a given, it shouldn't even need to be said. What matters is the skill relative to their peers. Perhaps a chess comparison may make sense to people. Paul Morphy is considered one of the greatest players to have ever lived, and destroyed his peers. Today, if he played the same moves that he played then against an average competitive player he would likely lose - the modern players have over a century of games and positions that have been analysed, and strategies have been refined. The modern player can learn from this century plus of knowledge relatively quickly. Morphy on the otherhand had virtually zero pre-existing knowledge and analysis to use as a starting point. On his own, he came up with strategies and concepts which not only separated him from his peers, but which are still prevalent in chess to this day. Was he better than today's average competitor? Hell yes! Was he better than more recent world champions like Fischer, Kasparov or Carlsen? Nobody can possibly say!
Indeed.....like comparing Jessie Owens to Usain Bolt. Absolutely pointless.
 

Red the Bear

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I did (76) I saw him once, at OT I was about 9/10 years old, think it was game against Wolves, and I think it was 1956/57 season, at least it was obviously prior to Munich . My uncle took me to the game (my first) and we were in the United Road Paddock. I was right up against the fence (all the kids were in them days) and suddenly right in front of me these two massive legs appeared on the track that ran around the pitch and the player seized the ball and hurled it back on to the pitch, I turned to look up at my uncle and he said 'that's our Duncan, lad".... sorry that's all I can remember, he was a giant with 'tree-trunks' for legs!
Would love to hear more stories about Busby babes if you have any.

Thanks for sharing that.
 

Stig

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Bobby Charlton from what I saw of him on film, would walk into any team anywhere in the world - exceptional. He said Duncan Edwards is the only player he every saw who made him feel inferior.

That tells me all I need to know.
 

amolbhatia50k

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As time goes by it is obvious that, due to advancement in understanding and medicine, and through a process of being able to learn from our predecessor, that we become physically more efficient.

It seems as if Duncan Edwards was one of the best during his time, but in todays generation he may not have been the best in the world.
The game is still highly physical as you can see with top teams of today. And he was technically gifted too.
 

JackRowley

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I didn’t get to see Edwards’s and the rest play , but my father used to go to Nottingham to see United play, and also to England games, which at that time had 3-4 in the team. He said to me that Duncan was an exceptional player and certainly a future captain of England. It’s ironic really, had Munich not happened, I couldn’t see Bobby Moore getting into England team, just shows how unexpected events can change the course of history.
 

General_Elegancia

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I didn’t get to see Edwards’s and the rest play , but my father used to go to Nottingham to see United play, and also to England games, which at that time had 3-4 in the team. He said to me that Duncan was an exceptional player and certainly a future captain of England. It’s ironic really, had Munich not happened, I couldn’t see Bobby Moore getting into England team, just shows how unexpected events can change the course of history.
He would be captain of England in World Cup 1966 and 1970 instead of Bobby Moore and probably in Euro 1968 too.
 

Mr. MUJAC

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If you look at a TED Talk from David Epstein on youtube...he talks about the difference between Jesse Owens and modern 100m runners.

It's quite fascinating and basically says that Owens would be just as brilliant today.

I think that is true with the greats of yesteryear.
 

Maticmaker

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Would love to hear more stories about Busby babes if you have any.
Unfortunately that was the only game I got to see of the old Busby Babes (pre-Munich). I was only 11 years old when the disaster occurred in Munich. Only started going to OT on a regular basis in the early 60's but did see some of the survivors, including Bobby Charlton, and new boys like Albert Quixall, from Sheffield Wednesday, at the time his was the record transfer in the UK £48,000.

The only other thing I can tell you on a personal basis of that era was on the night of the FA Cup tie, first game after Munich, against Sheffield Wednesday at OT. Me and two mates 'bunked off' from school at lunchtime and made our way by train to Piccadilly then to the ground (Cricket Ground), when we got off the train the crowds up Warwick Road were heaving and it was only 4.30 pm. In two hours we had only got as far as Stretford Police Station and it was solid. We and thousands around us stood and listened to the game on the miniature radios (popular at the time, fit in your pocket) sat on the wall outside the Police Station.
When Shay Brennan scored that first goal (straight from a corner) we all went berserk, a man grabbed my bobble hat (red /white of course) and threw it in the air...but than he did go and retrieve for me afterwards.

'Best game I never saw' as I used to tell family and friends for years afterwards.
 

Red the Bear

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Unfortunately that was the only game I got to see of the old Busby Babes (pre-Munich). I was only 11 years old when the disaster occurred in Munich. Only started going to OT on a regular basis in the early 60's but did see some of the survivors, including Bobby Charlton, and new boys like Albert Quixall, from Sheffield Wednesday, at the time his was the record transfer in the UK £48,000.

The only other thing I can tell you on a personal basis of that era was on the night of the FA Cup tie, first game after Munich, against Sheffield Wednesday at OT. Me and two mates 'bunked off' from school at lunchtime and made our way by train to Piccadilly then to the ground (Cricket Ground), when we got off the train the crowds up Warwick Road were heaving and it was only 4.30 pm. In two hours we had only got as far as Stretford Police Station and it was solid. We and thousands around us stood and listened to the game on the miniature radios (popular at the time, fit in your pocket) sat on the wall outside the Police Station.
When Shay Brennan scored that first goal (straight from a corner) we all went berserk, a man grabbed my bobble hat (red /white of course) and threw it in the air...but than he did go and retrieve for me afterwards.

'Best game I never saw' as I used to tell family and friends for years afterwards.
Thanks for sharing that, that must have been quite fun I imagine.

It's hard to believe what the club has gone through, importantly to think it's the same club and it managed to stay successful while playing entertaining football, to rebuild that side after the tragedy and winning it a decade after is just extruding.

Again thanks for sharing that, really appreciate it.
 

General_Elegancia

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Unfortunately that was the only game I got to see of the old Busby Babes (pre-Munich). I was only 11 years old when the disaster occurred in Munich. Only started going to OT on a regular basis in the early 60's but did see some of the survivors, including Bobby Charlton, and new boys like Albert Quixall, from Sheffield Wednesday, at the time his was the record transfer in the UK £48,000.

The only other thing I can tell you on a personal basis of that era was on the night of the FA Cup tie, first game after Munich, against Sheffield Wednesday at OT. Me and two mates 'bunked off' from school at lunchtime and made our way by train to Piccadilly then to the ground (Cricket Ground), when we got off the train the crowds up Warwick Road were heaving and it was only 4.30 pm. In two hours we had only got as far as Stretford Police Station and it was solid. We and thousands around us stood and listened to the game on the miniature radios (popular at the time, fit in your pocket) sat on the wall outside the Police Station.
When Shay Brennan scored that first goal (straight from a corner) we all went berserk, a man grabbed my bobble hat (red /white of course) and threw it in the air...but than he did go and retrieve for me afterwards.

'Best game I never saw' as I used to tell family and friends for years afterwards.
Thanks for sharing great story, respect.
 

Tincanalley

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It always baffled me that the only game that was left of him was the infamous 1957 FA Cup final against Aston Villa. As many of you probably know, it wasn't the best game to evaluate Duncan's talent on — after Villa forward Peter McParland injured United goalkeeper Ray Wood at the 6th minute, we were left with 10 players on the pitch and Duncan was moved further back.

A few days ago I stumbled on a different game from 1955 — Duncan Edwards' international debut. England faced Scotland at Wembley and the 18-years old United midfielder got his first cap for his country. Match reports paint a very accurate picture of what happened next — "Duncan Edwards, the human powerhouse from Manchester United, making an immediate and impressive impact, was at the heart of England's early play". Sadly, the first half footage haven't been recovered (yet?) but those 45 minutes were enough to amaze me, so I've decided to make an all-touch compilation of his performance. I'm sure many posters here are interested in Edwards as he's one of the most intriguing and fascinating parts of our club's history — we've all read the quotes but it's always better to watch a player with your own eyes.

England dominated that game by the way, beating Scotland 7 goals to 2. Stanley Matthews set up 4 goals, Dennis Wilshaw scored 4 and yet Duncan Edwards, who played at left half-back (~ defensive midfielder), got most of the individual praise after the game (certainly more than Wilshaw & maybe on par with the nation's sweetheart Matthews).

Anyway, here's the video — it's a relatively short one as, like I've said, only the 2nd half footage have survived to our days.

Thank
Thanks for posting. Hugely enjoyable watch. A lot of thoughts come to mind. Amazing physical specimen. Great vision, ball control. Obviously a huge talent. I also imagined the Caf slating him for giving the ball away once or twice. What position was he playing in? Anyway, again, brilliant to see.
 

Tincanalley

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The game is still highly physical as you can see with top teams of today. And he was technically gifted too.
Oddly enough, its amazing how much the game is still the same, is what struck me. Shielding the ball, one-twos, even pull-backs, traps, sidefooted passes, tackling.
 

Tincanalley

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Unfortunately that was the only game I got to see of the old Busby Babes (pre-Munich). I was only 11 years old when the disaster occurred in Munich. Only started going to OT on a regular basis in the early 60's but did see some of the survivors, including Bobby Charlton, and new boys like Albert Quixall, from Sheffield Wednesday, at the time his was the record transfer in the UK £48,000.

The only other thing I can tell you on a personal basis of that era was on the night of the FA Cup tie, first game after Munich, against Sheffield Wednesday at OT. Me and two mates 'bunked off' from school at lunchtime and made our way by train to Piccadilly then to the ground (Cricket Ground), when we got off the train the crowds up Warwick Road were heaving and it was only 4.30 pm. In two hours we had only got as far as Stretford Police Station and it was solid. We and thousands around us stood and listened to the game on the miniature radios (popular at the time, fit in your pocket) sat on the wall outside the Police Station.
When Shay Brennan scored that first goal (straight from a corner) we all went berserk, a man grabbed my bobble hat (red /white of course) and threw it in the air...but than he did go and retrieve for me afterwards.

'Best game I never saw' as I used to tell family and friends for years afterwards.
Excellent post. Thank you.
 

harms

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Thanks for posting. Hugely enjoyable watch. A lot of thoughts come to mind. Amazing physical specimen. Great vision, ball control. Obviously a huge talent. I also imagined the Caf slating him for giving the ball away once or twice. What position was he playing in? Anyway, again, brilliant to see.
Left half-back in W-W. Billy Wright plays against the opposition's centre forward while Edwards & Armstrong are more or less defensive midfielders

Blunstone ------- Lofthouse -------- Matthews
------- Wilshaw --------------- Revie -----------
--Edwards--------Wright-------Armstrong--
-------Byrne----------Meadows-----
---------------Williams --------------​
 

harms

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The only other thing I can tell you on a personal basis of that era was on the night of the FA Cup tie, first game after Munich, against Sheffield Wednesday at OT. Me and two mates 'bunked off' from school at lunchtime and made our way by train to Piccadilly then to the ground (Cricket Ground), when we got off the train the crowds up Warwick Road were heaving and it was only 4.30 pm. In two hours we had only got as far as Stretford Police Station and it was solid. We and thousands around us stood and listened to the game on the miniature radios (popular at the time, fit in your pocket) sat on the wall outside the Police Station.
When Shay Brennan scored that first goal (straight from a corner) we all went berserk, a man grabbed my bobble hat (red /white of course) and threw it in the air...but than he did go and retrieve for me afterwards.

'Best game I never saw' as I used to tell family and friends for years afterwards.
That FA Cup run was so inspiring, especially with Charlton & Viollett playing such crucial run in it. Even going back through games and watching the footage you get emotional, can't imagine how it must've felt when it was happening around you.
 

Charlie Foley

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My father, now 92, was a regular at Old Trafford in the 50s even though he lived in London; he has always said "Big Dunc" was the best he had seen, and hes seen, live, the likes of Pele, Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento, Best and Eusabio in their prime. Dads became a United supporter during The Babes era, even though he was born in Newcastle, and he started taking me to games when I was about 6 years old. Denis Law was the most exciting player I ever saw, but for Dad its Duncan Edwards. He had a program from a match in 1956 v Arsenal which Duncan signed, along with Liam Whelan and Johnny Berry; Whelan and Berry scored in 2-1 victory at Highbury. Sadly the program was lost when we moved home in 1963.
Feck me. I’ve seen Messi play live, but there’s something about that list of names.
 

Charlie Foley

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Unfortunately that was the only game I got to see of the old Busby Babes (pre-Munich). I was only 11 years old when the disaster occurred in Munich. Only started going to OT on a regular basis in the early 60's but did see some of the survivors, including Bobby Charlton, and new boys like Albert Quixall, from Sheffield Wednesday, at the time his was the record transfer in the UK £48,000.

The only other thing I can tell you on a personal basis of that era was on the night of the FA Cup tie, first game after Munich, against Sheffield Wednesday at OT. Me and two mates 'bunked off' from school at lunchtime and made our way by train to Piccadilly then to the ground (Cricket Ground), when we got off the train the crowds up Warwick Road were heaving and it was only 4.30 pm. In two hours we had only got as far as Stretford Police Station and it was solid. We and thousands around us stood and listened to the game on the miniature radios (popular at the time, fit in your pocket) sat on the wall outside the Police Station.
When Shay Brennan scored that first goal (straight from a corner) we all went berserk, a man grabbed my bobble hat (red /white of course) and threw it in the air...but than he did go and retrieve for me afterwards.

'Best game I never saw' as I used to tell family and friends for years afterwards.
:lol: :lol:
 

MalaysianRed7

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It always baffled me that the only game that was left of him was the infamous 1957 FA Cup final against Aston Villa. As many of you probably know, it wasn't the best game to evaluate Duncan's talent on — after Villa forward Peter McParland injured United goalkeeper Ray Wood at the 6th minute, we were left with 10 players on the pitch and Duncan was moved further back.

A few days ago I stumbled on a different game from 1955 — Duncan Edwards' international debut. England faced Scotland at Wembley and the 18-years old United midfielder got his first cap for his country. Match reports paint a very accurate picture of what happened next — "Duncan Edwards, the human powerhouse from Manchester United, making an immediate and impressive impact, was at the heart of England's early play". Sadly, the first half footage haven't been recovered (yet?) but those 45 minutes were enough to amaze me, so I've decided to make an all-touch compilation of his performance. I'm sure many posters here are interested in Edwards as he's one of the most intriguing and fascinating parts of our club's history — we've all read the quotes but it's always better to watch a player with your own eyes.

England dominated that game by the way, beating Scotland 7 goals to 2. Stanley Matthews set up 4 goals, Dennis Wilshaw scored 4 and yet Duncan Edwards, who played at left half-back (~ defensive midfielder), got most of the individual praise after the game (certainly more than Wilshaw & maybe on par with the nation's sweetheart Matthews).

Anyway, here's the video — it's a relatively short one as, like I've said, only the 2nd half footage have survived to our days.

The bit around 1:20 is amazing. He’s obviously excellent throughout the video, but he actually messes up with a stray header around that time frame. Needless to say though, he responds with a Scholes/KdB esque through ball in the same passage of play. I don’t need to talk about his mental strength as many people know of the way he battled on for weeks after the crash despite failing organs and a horrifically battered body, but this sort of illustrates it even further.
 

redmanx

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Feck me. I’ve seen Messi play live, but there’s something about that list of names.
Dad was and still is a huge football fan and he went to watch European matches too, including the 1960 European Cup Final when Real thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt 9-0. He saw Eusabio in the 1963 England v Rest of the world match at Wembley and again at the 66 World Cup v Brazil. He also went to Brazils first 66 match v Bulgaria and saw Pele. Of course only seeing a player a couple of times doesnt give a very good idea of the players ability, but obviously he knew Pele, Eusabio, Puskas, Di Stefano etc were truly great players, but none could match Duncan in his eyes.
 

Adam-Utd

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You can immediately see the combination of power and finesse he has.

A quick thinking brain with lots of accurate first time forward passes which get a roar from the crowd.

It’s not a surprise that such a combination in that day was a rarity, he certainly must have looked a man against boys. Ironically he was the boy against men.

If anybody finds more footage it will be good to post it
 

TomD

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My Dad & uncles, who are no longer with us, always mentioned him & all said he was the best they ever saw. They all passed early eighties to give it context.
 

B4Keane - Robson

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My Dad & uncles, who are no longer with us, always mentioned him & all said he was the best they ever saw. They all passed early eighties to give it context.
Like many in here I can only go off what my dad told me. He was a big City fan but would go and watch United when City were away. When I asked him once, without any hesitation he named Duncan Edwards as the best player he'd ever seen, basically had it all, he really liked George Best (well as much as a City fan can) but always told me Edwards was a level above.
 

wolvored

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It's frankly impossible to determine how good players were in those days, other than to say that they were good compared to other players at the time. Back then, football was so basic, life was so different, and most players were downright awful, so anyone with a bit of natural talent stood out. I once made a post about some of Charlton's goals and pointed out how comically inept the surrounding players were. Often, the opposition barely participated. There was one where he calmly strolls up the entire midfield with the ball and takes a shot and scores from a fair distance, and opposition players barely pay attention to him. There was another one where three United players are inside the opposition's goal area and no defenders are anywhere nearby, so he scores an impressive-looking volley. But if you look at the game as a whole, it's clear that it took very little to stand out compared to today, so it's largely pointless to judge players from that time. The best we can say is that Edwards was noticeably better than his peers, but odds are that if he had travelled through time and arrived anywhere after 1990, he might not be good enough to make a living as a footballer at all. It's like reviewing the first automobile. It'll be utter garbage compared to the worst cars today.
Yes you are spot on.
If you could take any Utd side as they were in the 50s 60s 70s or 80s and had a time machine and brought them to play Utd of today, they wouldnt win a game. The speed, passing, tactics etc would pass them by.
They were good in their era and Edwards, Charlton, Best, even my favourite player Robbo suited that era they played in, and would be lost nowadays.
 

red woppit

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It's frankly impossible to determine how good players were in those days, other than to say that they were good compared to other players at the time. Back then, football was so basic, life was so different, and most players were downright awful, so anyone with a bit of natural talent stood out. I once made a post about some of Charlton's goals and pointed out how comically inept the surrounding players were. Often, the opposition barely participated. There was one where he calmly strolls up the entire midfield with the ball and takes a shot and scores from a fair distance, and opposition players barely pay attention to him. There was another one where three United players are inside the opposition's goal area and no defenders are anywhere nearby, so he scores an impressive-looking volley. But if you look at the game as a whole, it's clear that it took very little to stand out compared to today, so it's largely pointless to judge players from that time. The best we can say is that Edwards was noticeably better than his peers, but odds are that if he had travelled through time and arrived anywhere after 1990, he might not be good enough to make a living as a footballer at all. It's like reviewing the first automobile. It'll be utter garbage compared to the worst cars today.
Yes, you are correct in certain respects, but you are giving the players of yesteryear a bit of a disadvantage by not taking in to account the state of some of the pitches they played on, the heaviness of the ball, the knowledge of nutrition.
Would Sir Garry Sobers, Colin Cowdrey, Geoff Boycott etc make it in today's cricket teams, probably not, but at there time they were supreme in what they did.
If Duncan Edwards was a young player coming through today, he would have better facilities, training methods, full time coaching, nutritionists, and everything else that the modern player gets, so who is to say he wouldn't become world class now?
The vast majority of Edwards appearances were only seen by the spectators who were at that particular game, and many people who actually watched him play, my father, uncles and cousins included, were all of the same opinion, in fact most of them became United fans primarily because of Duncan Edwards, the best player they ever saw.
So, the question is, how good was Duncan Edwards? He was one of the best players in world football at that time, enough said.
 

JPRouve

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I think you're being a tad harsh. Football was different then for a number of reasons. Not only has physicality improved as a result of diet, training, facilities, sports science etc, but also in those days - balls were way heavier, boots were heavier, pitches were "heavier" (muddy, scuffed). The result of all this combined was a game at a slower pace, teams more stretched/less compact in their shape.

Obviously if a footballer from 60 years ago was teleported to today and had to play immediately they would struggle. Give them a few months of conditioning and practise with modern balls, boots and tactics, and the best then would obviously make it today. The skill, intelligence, determination and creativity, courage that made them the best of their era, would be the same core attributes needed to become a footballer today. Likewise, take a modern player, time travel them back 60 years to play on old pitches, with old balls, and a few months without the modern support aides, and they'd struggle at first but in time would adapt.

I've never understood this argument when analysing players from previous generations. All of this should be a given, it shouldn't even need to be said. What matters is the skill relative to their peers. Perhaps a chess comparison may make sense to people. Paul Morphy is considered one of the greatest players to have ever lived, and destroyed his peers. Today, if he played the same moves that he played then against an average competitive player he would likely lose - the modern players have over a century of games and positions that have been analysed, and strategies have been refined. The modern player can learn from this century plus of knowledge relatively quickly. Morphy on the otherhand had virtually zero pre-existing knowledge and analysis to use as a starting point. On his own, he came up with strategies and concepts which not only separated him from his peers, but which are still prevalent in chess to this day. Was he better than today's average competitor? Hell yes! Was he better than more recent world champions like Fischer, Kasparov or Carlsen? Nobody can possibly say!
Your chess example is spot on, I would add one thing that is in my opinion the key point in favor of older athletes especially in tactical games. They had to and were able to fix problems while these problems occurred without the help of large libraries, computers or advanced statistics. In Chess that ability is particularly obvious since today we know the downfalls of pretty much any openings. In Football those downfalls are more about nutrition, player development and tactical setups. Also during Edwards time, good players could and were figuratively assaulted by defenders, that plays a role in the way players would act on the field.
 

b82REZ

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Yes you are spot on.
If you could take any Utd side as they were in the 50s 60s 70s or 80s and had a time machine and brought them to play Utd of today, they wouldnt win a game. The speed, passing, tactics etc would pass them by.
They were good in their era and Edwards, Charlton, Best, even my favourite player Robbo suited that era they played in, and would be lost nowadays.

No they're not, and your point is way of the mark.

Natural talent is natural talent and the players you mention had it in spades.

With the scientific approach to today's game, plus all the nutrition and analysis these players absolutely would thrive in the modern game.

Of course there were different priorities in the game back then so not all players from that era could translate that to the modern game, but based on what little evidence we have and first hand testimony of his ability, Edwards would have made it to the top in any generation, as would the other players you mentioned.
 
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