On June 12, 1952, Ulster United played against Manchester United at the University of Detroit Stadium, Detroit. Manchester United had won the 1951-52 English Football League championship and boasted a number of world-class players. The club was managed by the legendary Matt Busby. Star players included the $56,000 rated Roger Byrne, Irish international player John Carey and forward John Aston.
A crowd of 10,000 turned up to see the exhibition game. The gridiron field at the U. of D. Stadium was noted for being shorter and more narrow than the soccer fields in England.
Inside right Frank Clempson scored the first goal of the game after only 30 seconds to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead. Centre forward John Aston had the assist. Ulster United had their first shot at goal after four minutes, but goalkeeper Jack Crompton saved the effort from Jack Long.
Six minutes into the game Manchester United scored as John Aston headed past Ulster goalkeeper George Anderson. The Redhanders got their first goal when Jack Long connected on a pass from Malcolm McLean and put the ball behind Crompton in the Manchester United net.
Just before half-time Ulster United was awarded a direct free-kick from 30 yards by referee Doug Neilson. Jack Long put the ball neatly under the crossbar to make it a 2-2 tie. It was said to be the first goal scored on a free kick against Manchester United in 52 games.
15 minutes into the second half John Downie scored on pass from Roger Byrne. With four minutes left of the game England international forward Stan Pearson scored the final goal of the match, leading Manchester United to a 4-2 victory over Ulster United.
English league champions was presented with the Margaret Baxter Memorial Trophy after the game. It was Manchester United’s tenth straight win on their North American tour. They would go on to play two more exhibition games on their tour, losing both of them to Tottenham Hotspur. When the two English teams met at Varsity Stadium in Toronto on June 14, they set a new attendance record for a soccer match in Canada with 25,341 fans attending the match. The gate receipts were $48,617.
On February 6, 1958, Manchester United suffered a terrible tragedy when their flight home from a European Cup game crashed when it tried to take off from Munich airport. Of the players that were involved in the exhibition game against Ulster United, two Manchester United players died. Those two being Mark Jones and Roger Byrne. John Berry suffered so severe injuries in the crash that he was forced to retire. Also involved in the crash was John “Jackie” Blanchflower, he would later return to Toronto to play for Toronto City in the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League in 1961.
Ulster United: George Anderson; Jack Perrett, Jock Gifford; Sam Davidson, Phil McKay, Bob Kennedy; Jack Long, John Douglas, Alf Davies, Jim McLaughlin, Malcolm McLean. Subs: Vic Malcolmson, John Worsley, James Douglas
Manchester United: Jack Crompton; Tom McNulty, Jack Carey; Dave Gibson, Mark Jones, Harry Cockburn; Harry McShane, Frank Clempson, John Aston, Stan Pearson, Roger Byrne. Subs: Reggie Allen, John Berry, John Downie, Jack Rowley, John Blanchflower, John Whitefoot
Referee: Doug Nelson
Linesmen: Hugh McLean, Davie Collins
Manchester United’s 1952 North American tour results:
May 8, 1952 Kearny, New Jersey
Manchester United 4, New Jersey All-Stars 0
May 11, 1952 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Manchester United 4, Philadelphia All-Stars 0
May 13, 1952 Delorimier Stadium, Montreal, Quebec
Manchester United 10, Montreal All-Stars 0
May 18, 1952 Randall’s Island, New York City
Manchester United 5, American Soccer League All-Stars 1
May 21, 1952 Fall River Stadium, Fall River, Massachusetts
Manchester United 11, Fall River Stars 1
May 25, 1952 Triborough Stadium, Randall’s Island, New York City
Manchester United 5, Stuttgarter Kickers 2
May 27, 1952 Chicago, Illinois
Manchester United 6, Chicago All-Stars 1
June 1, 1952 East Los Angeles Stadium, Los Angeles, California
Manchester United 2, Atlas of Mexico 0
June 8, 1952 East Los Angeles Stadium, Los Angeles, California
Manchester United 4, Atlas of Mexico 3
June 12, 1952 University of Detroit Stadium, Detroit, Michigan
Manchester United 4, Ulster United 2
June 14, 1952 Varsity Stadium, Toronto
Manchester United 0, Tottenham Hotspurs 5
June 15, 1952 Yankee Stadium, New York City
Manchester United 1, Tottenham Hotspurs 7