Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Soccer: Best of United came to these shores

George Best starred at Carlaw Park. Photo / NZ Herald
George Best starred at Carlaw Park. Photo / NZ Herald

Manchester United, 1967
Undoubtedly one of the best teams - club or international - to be seen on these shores. The Red Devils, fresh from their seventh League title, had Bobby Charlton, Alex Stepney, Nobby Stiles, Denis Law and the one and only George Best in their team. They beat the All Whites 11-0 in Christchurch in a match also memorable for United scoring when the local goalkeeper, wearing multiple jerseys in the cold conditions, got one stuck around his head in the process of trying to take it off. They rounded out the visit with an 8-1 win over an Auckland XI at Carlaw Park. United won their first European Cup the following year.

Watford, 1982
For their final warm-up games the month before the 1982 World Cup, the All Whites faced Graham Taylor's Watford, owned by singer Elton John, who joined the team on tour. Watford took the honours in Christchurch (1-0) and Auckland (2-0) with a 1-1 draw in Wellington. John Barnes shone for the visitors, while fellow England international Luther Blissett grabbed three goals.

Rangers, 1984
Featuring players such as Ally McCoist, Davie Cooper and Robert Fleck, Rangers outclassed the All Whites 3-0.

Newcastle, 1985
The Tyneside squad included Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle, Glenn Roeder and a 17-year-old Paul Gascoigne. 'Gazza', who got a Mohican-style haircut on tour, admitted he lost his virginity on the trip and was apparently surprised at the lack of bacon at one hotel breakfast, given our large population of sheep. The Toon played four matches against the All Whites, with wins in Christchurch (2-1), Wellington (4-0) and Auckland (3-2) and a draw (2-2) in Napier.

Everton, 1987
The last Toffees side to be crowned league champions, Howard Kendall's team included internationals Kevin Ratcliffe, Gary Stevens, Peter Reid, Trevor Steven and Graeme Sharp. They beat a Canterbury selection 3-0 at QEII Park and trumped an Auckland XI - including Ricki Herbert and Duncan Cole - 2-1 in front of 16,000 at Mt Smart, which included Keith 'Buzzer' Mackay's chipped equaliser.

Werder Bremen, 1992
Wynton Rufer's club team, which had recently won the Cup Winners Cup, flew out for a three-match tour. Rufer turned out for the All Whites and the teams split the series, with a draw in Christchurch.Other clubs to visit include UEFA Cup winners IFK Gothenburg (1988), Dynamo Minsk (1987), Norwich City (1979), Sunderland (1976) and Hearts (1976).

- Herald on Sunday

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