The final act of Mick Duxbury’s Manchester United playing career was to have a meeting with Alex Ferguson where he handed the Reds boss the watch Fergie had left on his Wembley dressing room peg after the 1990 FA Cup final that kick-started the club’s golden era.
The versatile Accrington-born defender-midfielder’s reward? He was informed that his Old Trafford days were over!
Having decided not to pocket the Scot’s timepiece, time finally ran out for one of the Reds’ unsung heroes of the 1980s, although he would later go on to play competitively for four more years, including 27 appearances in a two-year stint with Blackburn Rovers.
Duxbury had been on the periphery of Tommy Docherty’s 1976 side at the Cup Final, making his way towards the first team as a youngster.
Sixteen years later, it ended the same way when he was left out of that 1990 final and replay against Crystal Palace, having harboured hopes of being the substitute.
In between times, though, he did win two FA Cup medals in 1983 and 1985, making 378 appearances for the Reds, and he is currently 37th in the club’s all-time appearance makers list.
Duxbury knew Wembley ‘90 would have closed the chapter on his United career perfectly.
“I was devastated. In my heart of hearts, knowing the way things had gone, I knew that was going to be my last game for United. To end in an FA Cup final, even as a substitute, would have been nice. It wasn’t to be,” he recalls in his new autobiography ‘It’s Mick not Mike.’
“There was no animosity. I was disappointed although I was at least self-aware enough to recognise it was coming and at least it had been dealt with face-to-face and honestly.
“With that, my association with the club I’d been with since a schoolboy was officially over. I must have represented United in some shape or form well over 600 times.
“Would I have wanted more? In a perfect world, it would never end.”
Dave Sexton gave him his debut in September 1980 in a Manchester derby at Old Trafford. The United boss’ playing style was labelled boring but Duxbury liked the Londoner.
“Dave lost his job simply because of the expectation levels at United but I was very disappointed and sad to see him go,” he recalled.
Sexton’s exit heralded the flamboyant Ron Atkinson era.
“With Ron I felt that if anyone was going to get dropped, it would be me. I was once asked who I would like least to be stranded on a desert island with, and I said Ron!” says Mick.
“When Alex Ferguson arrived we weren’t entirely sure what his philosophy was. And although he spoke well, and seemed like a really mild-mannered individual, there were always a few comments of, ‘Well, you’ve not seen the real Ferguson yet.’
“I suppose he wanted to create a good impression and be friends with most while he established himself. That might surprise some who know Sir Alex, as he became someone who went by his own rules, trusted his own judgement, and couldn’t care less what others thought of him. He would talk to us in a group and then speak to the players individually about his thoughts of how we should be training and living.
“That was his manner and way of doing things, and it came across as him trying to make a good impression, but looking back you can see that these are the things many people have said about him even in the last year of being in management.”
It’s Mick, Not Mike: The Autobiography of Mick Duxbury. By Mick Duxbury, with Wayne Harrison
Published October 1 by Pitch Publishing Ltd.