Here comes #2 in my club legends feature and the subject of this post is Luigi “Lou” Macari. Macari played for Manchester United for 11 years between 1973 and 1984. Macari still has a strong association with the club to this day, he appears regularly on United’s in-house TV channel MUTV. He also owns the Lou Macari Chip shop that is situated outside Old Trafford.
Lou was born on 7th June 1949 in Edinburgh and raised in the Ayrshire seaside resort of Largs, he also spent a year of his childhood living in London. Growing up Lou had two big loves in his life these were football and horses. Many like to comment that Macari was an icon for the successful Scottish Italian community but Macari himself has played down his Italian roots. Commenting that both his parents are Scottish and he sees himself and his family as Scottish. It was only through his name and his father’s side long past that he had any Italian links.
Lou spent six years at Celtic Park playing for Glasgow Celtic before he made the move south of the border to Old Trafford in 1973 for fee of £200,000. Macari was one of the earliest members of the Quality Street Gang to make an impression at Celtic Park and by 1970 had established himself as regular member of the Celtic first team squad. He had an outstanding scoring record for the Celtic reserves and he carried on this fine scoring record in the Celtic first team under the great Jock Stein. He was a thorn in the side of opposition defenders, he was always hassling and niggling away for the ball and was very good in the air for a small man. He would time his leaps exceptional well and scored some great goals with his head.
He was attracting attention from teams south of the border, most notably Manchester United and Liverpool. Tommy Docherty had given Macari his international debut when he was the Scotland manager and Docherty had become manager of Manchester United in December 1972 and was a big fan of Macari and made him his no.1 transfer target. So he made the move to Manchester United on 18th January 1973 for a then Scottish record fee of £200,000. He signed for Manchester United despite interest from Liverpool who were at this time a major force in European football, while United were struggling in mid and lower reaches of the league table. It is said that Macari chose United over Liverpool because they were offering him a better financial deal. The then Liverpool manager Bill Shankly is said to quipped on Macari decision to choose United over Liverpool by saying “I only wanted him for the reserves anyway”.
Macari quickly endeared himself to the Manchester United faithful as he scored on his debut in a 2-2 against West Ham United at Old Trafford. In the 1973/74 season which was Macari’s first full season with United. They were caught in a relegation battle that went right down to the wire. United entered the penultimate game of the season needing to win the final two games and Birmingham City to lose theirs, Birmingham won and United’s fate was sealed when Denis Law (now playing for Manchester City) scored the only goal game to relegate United to the second division. Macari and United bounced straight back the following season as they won the second division title to return to the top flight at their first attempt. Macari finished that season 2nd in the United scoring charts with 11 goals.
On their return to the top flight in the 1975/76 season, United performed well eventually finishing 3rd in the table and for a period were leading the table. They also reached the 1976 Fa Cup Final but were disappointedly defeated 1-0 by Southampton. Macari had another decent return this season in the scoring charts, scoring 12 goals in the league and 15 goals in all competitions. The following season Macari and United returned to Wembley for the 1977 Fa Cup against Liverpool. United won the game 2-1 when Macari’s shot deflected off Jimmy Greenhoff to not just win United the Fa Cup but also stop Liverpool from completing the treble of League Title, Fa Cup and European Cup.
Before Tommy Docherty had been replaced as United’s manager by Dave Sexton in the summer of 1977, Docherty had moved Macari from his striker role to deeper role in midfield. Macari and United again reached the Fa Cup final in 1979, they narrowly lost 3-2 to Arsenal in match they had been 2-0 until the final minutes when United then scored two goals in two minutes to level the game before Arsenal got the winner in the 89th minute only a minute after United had drawn level. Dave Sexton was sacked at the end of the 1980/81 season and replaced by Ron Atkinson. Macari struggled to force his way into Atkinson’s starting eleven in the next three seasons. He only made 27 appearances in all competitions in his final three seasons at United under Atkinson.
He left United to take up a player-managers position at Swindon Town for the start of the 1984/85 season. He carried on playing for a further two seasons for Swindon Town. He went on to have spells ass manager at West Ham United, Birmingham City, Stoke City (twice), Celtic and Huddersfield Town. He had a reputation as a manager who insisted on a strict fitness regime. With extra training sessions during players spare time and banning alcohol in and around the clubs he managed. He had some success as a manager, winning the fourth division title with Swindon in 1985/86 then reaching and winning the third division play-off final the following season with Swindon. In his first spell as Stoke City manager, he won the second division title in 1992/93. His final managerial job came at Huddersfield town where he was unable to save them from relegation but steadied the ship the following year as they reached the second division play-offs before losing to Brentford in the semi-finals in 2001/02 season.
At the end of that season the Huddersfield board decided not to renew Macari’s contract, he was linked with several managerial positions but never ventured back into the management game. Macari now works as a pundit on several shows for United’s TV channel MUTV. He is regular on Match Day Live before Manchester United’s games, he also appears on the regular phone-in shows on the channel.
Hope you all enjoyed reading this piece and feel free to comment.