United's Welsh Dragons
As Wales and England meet, we look at the United men who've played for the principality through the years...
Ryan Giggs' international retirement means that United's connections with Wales' senior side are, for now, consigned to the past.
The evergreen winger tops our list of Welsh Reds but before we look at the stellar quintet in more detail, there are plenty of their compatriots deserving of honourable mentions. Alan Davies won 13 Welsh caps, his first coming soon after he played in the 1983 FA Cup final, while namesakes Simon Davies and Ron Davies made one Wales appearance apiece during their United careers in the 1990s and 1970s respectively.
Brothers Jack and Roger Doughty were among Newton Heath’s Welsh internationals while pre-war United representatives included Harry Thomas, Tom Jones and Jack Warner. Cardiff-born striker Colin Webster played in the 1958 World Cup after appearing in the FA Cup final for United earlier that year, while Graham Moore won two caps whilst at Old Trafford in the 1960s.
Robbie Savage made all of his 39 international appearances after leaving United and it’s worth remembering Jimmy Murphy actually combined his assistant manager duties at Old Trafford with an eight-year stint in charge of Wales, including their only World Cup finals campaign in 1958.
With Giggs now concentrating on his domestic career, it’s left to 17-year-old Tom Lawrence to carry the torch with the Wales Under-21s.
Ryan Giggs (1991-2007 – 64 caps / 12 goals)
While the Reds legend is arguably the greatest-ever player from Wales, it’s fair to say his best moments have been at club level. However, he was his country's youngest ever player against Germany in 1991 and was absolutely outstanding in his second game against Belgium. It was nine years before he played in a friendly but his commitment to the cause was unquestioned when Wales almost reached the 1994 World Cup finals, only to lose to Romania after Paul Bodin's costly penalty miss. After his country again came close to qualifying for a major tournament in 2004, he retired from international duty in 2007 to help prolong his club career.
Mark Hughes (1984-1999 – 72/16)
Sparky’s warrior-like qualities helped him become a key figure for the Wales team, in which he formed a devastating partnership with Ian Rush. The winning goal on his debut against England in 1984 quickly endeared himself to the Welsh faithful and it was obvious he would be a stalwart for many years. One extraordinary scissor-kick against Spain always springs to mind when thinking of his international highlights, one of his 16 international goals. Hughes also coached Wales from 1999 to 2004 and revived their fortunes, only for Russia to end their Euro 2004 qualifying hopes in the play-offs.
Billy Meredith (1895-1920 – 48/11)
Star of probably the first great United side, the wiry winger made his international bow way back in 1895 against Ireland. Incredibly, ‘Old Skinny’ did not earn his final cap until 1920 as he turned out in a sweet victory against England at the ripe old age of 45 years and eight months, becoming the oldest international of all time. The former Manchester City man won two league titles with United as well as the club's first-ever FA Cup in 1909.
Mickey Thomas (1976-1986 – 51/4)
The Colwyn Bay-born winger was a shrewd signing in 1978 from Wrexham – the club he ended his career with. A hard-working wide man who was able to supply inviting crosses, he did well under Dave Sexton but was sold to Everton in 1981. Although he won over half-a-century of caps for Wales, his most memorable moment came when scoring against England in the famous 4-1 victory in 1980. At the age of 37, he wrote himself into FA Cup folklore with a spectacular strike as Wrexham knocked out Arsenal.
Clayton Blackmore (1985-1998 – 39/1)
Known for his versatility and venomous shooting, he made 39 appearances for Wales between 1985 and 1997. An integral part of the side, his only goal came in the 6-0 win against Faroe Islands in a World Cup qualifier in 1992 when he smashed home an intelligent pass by Ryan Giggs. He became part of Mark Hughes’ coaching team in order to extend his association with his country after winning numerous trophies with United.