Brian McClair

Brian McClair
Brian McClair
McClair, Brian.jpg
Personal information
Full name Brian John McClair
Date of birth 8 December 1963 (1963-12-08) (age 47)
Place of birth Bellshill, Scotland
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Playing position Forward
Club information
Current club Manchester United (Director of Youth Academy)
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1980–1981 Aston Villa 0 (0)
1981–1983 Motherwell 40 (15)
1983–1987 Celtic 145 (99)
1987–1998 Manchester United 355 (88)
1998 Motherwell 11 (0)
Total 551 (202)
National team
1986–1993 Scotland 30 (2)
Teams managed
1998–1999 Blackburn Rovers (assistant)
2006– Manchester United (Director of Youth Academy)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Brian John McClair (born 8 December 1963, Bellshill, Scotland) is a former Scottish international football player who played as a forward, notable for his near 11-year spell at Manchester United, as well as important tenures at Scottish clubs Celtic and Motherwell. He was nicknamed "Choccy", as his last name rhymed with the delicacy "Chocolate Eclair".

McClair is currently Manchester United's youth academy director.


Club career

Early career

McClair began his career with Aston Villa on leaving school in 1980, but left after one season (in which Villa were Football League champions) having never played a competitive game.

He then returned to Scotland and signed for Motherwell scoring 15 league goals in two seasons.


A £100,000 fee took McClair to Celtic. In four seasons with the club, he made 145 league appearances and scored 99 goals.[1]

During his time at Celtic, they were Scottish Cup winners in 1985 and Premier Division champions in 1986.[2] In the 1986–87 season, he scored 35 goals in 44 league appearances and won both the Scottish Football Writers' Association Player of the Year and the Scottish Players' Player of the Year awards.[3]

Manchester United

McClair is best remembered, however, for his time at Manchester United. He joined them for £850,000 in July 1987 – despite Celtic initially wanting £2million for him, a fee which would have made him the most expensive player at the time to have signed for any British club.

In 11 years at Old Trafford, he made a total of 468 appearances and scored 126 goals in all competitions. In later years, as his first team opportunities were reduced, McClair became somewhat of a cult hero at United due to his Choccy's Diary being published in the official Manchester United magazine.

In his first season for Manchester United he scored 24 league goals, becoming the first United player to surpass 20 league goals in one season since George Best in the 1967–68 season. His first goal for United came in the third game of the season, a 2–0 home win over Watford. He scored in the next game, a 3–1 away win over Charlton Athletic. He scored a brace in the 4–2 away over Sheffield Wednesday on 10 October 1987, and a further one in the late December win over defending champions Everton. He put a further double over Sheffield Wednesday in the March return game at Old Trafford, and scored a hat-trick against Derby County in early April. In the final two games of the season (against Portsmouth and Wimbledon) he managed two further braces. Only Liverpool's John Aldridge managed more First Division goals that season. He managed a total of 31 goals in all competitions, but a late penalty miss in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Arsenal meant that United lost the tie 2–1 and he was denied the chance of silverware as well as building on his already highly impressive goals tally.

1988–89 was a trying season for United after the excellent progress of 1987–88. After a season playing alongside Peter Davenport, McClair now found himself paired with returning hero Mark Hughes (back at United after two unhappy years abroad) and much was expected of the newly formed partnership. By the end of November, McClair had scored just twice in the league and Hughes had found the net eight times, and United were mid table after a run of eight draws and one defeat. Results improved over the next couple of months as United crept to the fringes of the title challenge, but fell away in the final quarter of the season as United finished 11th. McClair and Hughes both managed 16 goals in all competitions, with Hughes being leading scorer in the league with 14 goals opposed to McClair's 10.

He was on the winning side at United triumphed 1–0 over Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final replay at Wembley Stadium on 17 May 1990, five days after drawing 3–3 in the first match. In the league, however, it had been a disappointing time for McClair as he scored just five goals and United finished 13th – their lowest finish since they were relegated from the top flight 16 years earlier. He was now facing competition from highly promising young striker Mark Robins, who had scored 10 goals in 23 first team games that season.

He did however score the winning goal for United in the 1991 UEFA Super Cup against Red Star Belgrade, which followed his part in their European Cup Winners' Cup triumph over Barcelona. McClair had now won the fight to keep his place in the first team as he rediscovered his goalscoring touch and Mark Robins was now struggling to get into the team.

In October 1990, McClair was involved in controversy when in reaction to a late challenge he repeatedly kicked Arsenal's Nigel Winterburn in the back as he lay prone on the ground, sparking a 21 man brawl. Manchester United had a point deducted for this, and Arsenal (who went on to be league champions that season) had two points docked. [4]

In 1992, McClair scored the only goal in the 1992 League Cup Final against Nottingham Forest at Wembley, though he missed out on a league title winner's medal as United's shortage of goals in the second half of the season cost them the championship, which was clinched by Leeds United. Alex Ferguson then made unsuccessful bids for strikers David Hirst and Alan Shearer, sparking speculation that either McClair or Mark Hughes would be forced out of the first team by the new signings, but in the end the new striker signed was Dion Dublin, who was bought as backup for McClair and Hughes.

Having been the main striker for United during his first season, and then partnering Mark Hughes when the Welshman returned from Barcelona, McClair was switched to a central midfield role when Eric Cantona joined United in November 1992, the casualty of this position being the veteran Bryan Robson, who from this point onwards was mostly used as a substitute.

When Roy Keane was signed the following summer, McClair's first team opportunities became increasingly limited. He did, however, manage another Cup Final appearance and another goal at Wembley, coming off the bench to score United's fourth goal as they beat Chelsea 4–0 in the 1994 FA Cup Final. He was rarely left out of the squad, often coming on as a substitute to play in midfield or attack.

When squad numbers were introduced in the Premier League for its second season in 1993–94, McClair was issued with the number 9 shirt that had traditionally been his during the days of 1–11 shirt numbering. However, this number went to Andy Cole at the start of the 1996–97 season, after which McClair wore the number 13 shirt.

Despite his infrequent first team appearances, McClair elected to stay on at United as a squad player, providing reliable cover in midfield and attack and making over 40 appearances (in the first eleven or as a substitute) in 1994–95. He was still trucking along in 1996–97, and on the first day of that season, McClair was credited with an assist for David Beckham's spectacular goal from the halfway line against Wimbledon. McClair had a hand in another memorable goal that season, assisting Eric Cantona in his famous chipped goal against Sunderland at Old Trafford. On 15 April 1997, a crowd of over 44,000 attended McClair's testimonial game against former club Celtic at Old Trafford.

He scored a total of 127 goals for United, the last two coming against Coventry City in a 4–0 away league win on 22 November 1995, although he made some 60 first team appearances over the next two and a half years (mostly as a substitute).[5]


At the end of the 1997–98 season, McClair was given a free transfer to complete his playing days elsewhere. He accepted an offer to return to Motherwell, where he spent six months before announcing his retirement.

International career

In international football, McClair won 30 caps for his native Scotland. He represented Scotland at the 1992 European Championships, where he scored one of his two international goals. His final appearance for Scotland came in 1993.


McClair returned south of the border in December 1998 to become Brian Kidd's assistant at Blackburn Rovers. But he was unable to prevent Blackburn from slipping out of the Premier League and within a year he had been sacked. He returned to Old Trafford as a youth team coach soon afterwards.

Ironically, when Kidd first joined Blackburn after being assistant manager at Manchester United, McClair was one of several high profile names to be linked with the assistant manager's vacancy at Old Trafford, as was former team mate Steve Bruce – who was managing Sheffield United at this stage.

In 2001 he was appointed as Reserve Team manager, and promptly won the Premier Reserve League in his first season as coach. In his second season, he was in charge of the Under-19 team which clinched the 2003 FA Youth Cup. Some players from that team, like David Jones, Chris Eagles and Kieran Richardson went on to make appearances in the first team.

At the end of the 2004–05 season the first team finished trophyless, but the Reserve Teams headed by Ricky Sbragia won an unprecedented quadruple of the Pontins' Holidays League, the FA Premier Reserve League, The Pontins' Holidays League Cup and the Premier Reserve League Playoff. Their quest for an unprecedented five trophies was thwarted when they lost to Manchester City in the Manchester Senior Cup.

After a year of shadowing Les Kershaw, Manchester United's then academy director McClair replaced him at the start of the 2006–07 season, and is now the Director of Manchester United's youth academy, of which his son, Liam, was once a member.



  • Scottish League Championship (1): 1985-86
  • Scottish Cup (1): 1984-85
Manchester United


Manchester United Reserves



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