Manchester United is deeply saddened by the passing of Maurice Watkins, who served the club with great distinction as a director for more than a quarter of a century.
Paying tribute to Watkins following news of his death, Sir Alex said: “Maurice was really supportive during my time as manager and great company. In my 26 years, there were some rocky moments, and he was always there with wise advice. He had great energy as well – involved in so many organisations.
“He was unflappable. During some tense games, I’d look over and he would be calmly reading the programme.
“His legal experience was invaluable. When I called him to say I wanted to stay at United, he said they had already sorted a new manager but, not to worry, he would dig us out. And he did. He was a true gentleman.”
Perhaps Watkins’s most famous moment as United’s chief legal adviser came in 1995, when he helped the club and Eric Cantona handle the fallout from the Frenchman’s infamous altercation with a Crystal Palace supporter during an away match at Selhurst Park.
Indeed, Watkins had even helped Cantona draft the enigmatic statement beforehand.
“He had a drink of water, said his piece and then left me to explain it.”
As chairman of British Swimming, he oversaw the resurgence of the Great British swimming team, which culminated in their best-ever Olympics medal haul in Tokyo this month. He also had spells as chairman of Barnsley FC and senior positions with the Rugby Football League, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, and Lancashire County Cricket Club.
Away from sport, he helped raise over £68 million for hospitals as chairman of the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital charity appeals board, and he was made CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2011 for services to charity.
Everyone at Manchester United sends their deepest condolences to Maurice’s loved ones. He will always be remembered with affection and respect by all of us at Old Trafford.
Laird clinches Championship loan move