Born: Caderzone, Italy, 10th February 1948
Height: 5ft. 7ins., Weight: 10st. 5lbs.
Career: St. Malachy’s School (Collyhurst)/ Manchester Boys/ Lancashire Boys/ UNITED: Am. July 1963 Pro. February 1965/ Bologna (It) February 1973/ Spal (It) July 1974 to June 1976/ Benevento (It) (L) December 1975 to May 1976/ Calcio Lecce 1912 (It) July 1976/ Rimini (It) July 1979/ Trento (It) July 1982 to June 1984
With a population of less than 500 people, job prospects after the Second World War were limited in the small Italian valley town of Caderzone, 30 miles north of Trento, where nearly everyone was employed on the land. Many of the locals held visions of a better life elsewhere, leaving the area for the lure of America, Australia or Great Britain, and when Carlo and his twin sister were born in the winter of 1948, their parents had already considered moving away from the region. Tragically, the baby girl died at birth, so it was with a total of three boys and one girl that Mr. and Mrs. Sartori emigrated to England ten months later.
The family set up home at Blossom Street in Ancoats, an area which was known locally as the ‘Italian Ghetto’. Luckily, the respectable and hard working family weren’t there too long as, by the time Carlo was two, they had moved to a newly developed council estate in Collyhurst where their experience was put to good use by establishing a thriving knife sharpening business.
There was obviously something in the air in that part of Manchester as far as the development of footballers was concerned because Nobby Stiles and Brian Kidd attended St. Patrick’s School in Livesey Street while the young Sartori went to St. Malachy’s in Eggington Street, just half a mile up the road. He played for his school side from the age of eight and assisted them to victory in various local competitions.
Sometime in the 1961/62 season he attended trials for North Manchester and was also selected for the Manchester Boys under-14 team only to come under the watchful eye of a Mr. Whetton. Conspicuous by his short red hair, he was as enthusiastic as a Jack Russell on rabbit duty, seemingly full of restless energy and attacking instincts. He excelled as an inside-forward for the Manchester under-15’s during their 1962/63 campaign and was then selected for Lancashire Boys in the same term.
Heavyweights such as Everton, Burnley and West Brom had noted his name, and following a trial with the latter he was invited to take a look around Manchester City’s facilities. His older brothers were both City fans and they had taken him to Maine Road many times, therefore it was highly tempting to commit to a club that his boyhood idol Denis Law had once starred for.
He revealed, ‘On my last day at school, a teacher informed me that ‘Mr. Joe Armstrong from Manchester United is coming to your house to see you’ and he arrived on the number 112 bus from Old Trafford. He had a cup of tea with my mum and we then took the bus back to the ground where I was introduced to some of the players, including Denis.’ After experiencing what he called ‘the Manchester United way’, Sartori felt that ‘it was the place to be’ but, because he was helping out in the family firm at the same time, he didn’t take up an apprenticeship and instead penned amateur forms.
Missing from the opening weeks of the 1963/64 season, his debut for the ‘B’ team on the 14th September concluded in a 2-0 defeat at Rochdale. He then started to suffer severe discomfort with muscle spasms in his back and as a consequence was required to sit out the next three months. His return was marked by scoring half a dozen goals in as many games, including a hat-trick in a 9-0 home thrashing of Manchester City. Supporting the Light Blues hadn’t prevented him from turning in a superb performance against them and he continued his progress by featuring in the ‘B’ side for the remainder of the term.
His journey through the following campaign was similar to the previous one as he missed the first few games before becoming prevalent in the ‘B’ team again, finding the net with some regularity from either of the inside-forward positions, and by the halfway mark of the season he had scored seven goals in ten starts. Signing as a professional on his 17th birthday in February 1965, over the second half of the term he turned out on half a dozen occasions for the ‘A’ team. As activities drew to a close, the coaching staff moved him into the half-back line, a role he would later assume for the first-team.
After the ‘B’ side had helped themselves to the Lancashire League title he was selected as one of the youth squad that travelled to Zurich for the Blue Stars tournament in late May. Despite sitting out the final, nevertheless he was delighted to see the Reds record a 2-1 victory over Bologna of Italy. Little did he know that in eight years time he would be swapping the red shirt of United for the red and blue stripes of their continental opponents.
Pleasantly surprised to find himself involved with the Reserves for the opening day fixture of the 1965/66 campaign at Wolves, he kept his place in the side for the following home match against West Brom before dropping back down a grade.
In amongst the goals as United defeated Blackburn 7-2 to win the home leg of the Supplementary Cup in November, the following month finally saw him involved in the Youth Cup. Sartori had missed out a year previously because he was considered small in comparison with his peers, but he relished his chance when it came as the Reds hammered Manchester City 5-0. It was a significant event in the club’s history as, along with Wayne Emmerson in the same match, they became the first overseas born players to feature for United in the competition. The Reds were then eliminated by Liverpool in the following round, an unwanted development that ended his brief association with the tournament.
By February 1966 he had started to appear in the Reserves once again and following his hat-trick for the ‘A’ team in a 4-2 win at Bury in mid-March, he was given a decent run in the second string. Maintaining a place in the side throughout the 1966/67 season when appearing either at inside-forward or half-back, with David Herd and Denis Law firing on all cylinders as United raced towards the First Division title, it was accepted that he still had some distance to go to reach first-team standard.
The 1967/68 term was a virtual replica of the previous one as he was a mainstay of the Reserves when they ended in second place in the Central League. With nine goals in nineteen games to his name, Sartori was delighted to be named as substitute for a senior match at Newcastle in December. He wasn’t needed, although the experience of travelling with the squad and the realisation that he was in Matt Busby’s thoughts buoyed him.
After five years spent learning his trade, the beginning of 1968/69 season saw him in an optimistic frame of mind. Having matured significantly and now much stronger physically, which meant that he was better equipped to deal with the demands of top flight football, in early October he put on a dazzling display and scored twice in a 5-0 Lancashire Senior Cup home victory over Netherfield in front of the ever watchful Busby.
Two days later he was entrusted with the number twelve jersey for the seniors’ trip to Spurs. When Francis Burns left the field with a cartilage problem he was introduced to the rigours of the Football League in a 2-2 draw and on the following Saturday his first full start at Liverpool was as a replacement for George Best.
Some of the playing personnel were withdrawn from the game at Anfield in preparation for the forthcoming midweek return match with Estudiantes in the World Club Championship and he was gobsmacked to discover that he had been named as the substitute for the crucial home clash. Just before half-time, Denis Law picked up an injury and he was thrown into the action, accounting for himself admirably in a 1-1 draw which saw the Argentinians head off with the trophy. He was then involved in most senior activities through to February, featuring in a further fourteen games, and also came by a Lancashire Senior Cup medal when Liverpool were defeated 1-0 in the final.
Following those marvellous experiences he was keen to push for a regular first-team place in the 1969/70 season, although with the Reds struggling in the league he was never able to ratchet down a spot in the side. Law was on the treatment table for much of the time and manager Wilf McGuinness experimented with the likes of Don Givens, Alan Gowling and Sartori on occasions but usually preferred to rely on experience. Nevertheless, he still turned out in seventeen league games and most of the knock-out matches as United reached the F.A. Cup and League Cup semi-finals and at the end of the proceedings he was taken on a senior tour for the first time when the Reds visited Bermuda and North America.
With United again displaying dismal league form during the 1970/71 campaign he featured in only eight games, five of them from the bench. It had now become obvious that he wasn’t going to be given a decent run in the team, although when Frank O’Farrell was appointed as manager in 1971 he thought that it was worth at least one last shot.
Not involved at all until early January, it was then that he decided to leave. A number of clubs wanted him, including Southampton, Ipswich and Oldham, and Brighton’s manager pestered him with repeated telephone calls in an attempt to convince him to join the south coast outfit. At that point Gigi Peronace, the Italian football agent who had been instrumental in bringing Denis Law to United ten years earlier, intervened by holding discussions regarding a possible move to Italy. With only two substitute appearances under his belt all term, moving on was now a necessity to him.
He continued with the Reserves for the opening three months of the next season and then took trials at Fiorentina and Bologna in November 1972 after Peronace had brokered opportunities with both clubs. Sartori participated in a practice match with the former only to be put off by their style of football, while in contrast he fitted in almost immediately at Bologna and a transfer fee of £50,000 was soon agreed.
He again represented United in the Central League while the formalities were being resolved and his personal arrangements could be concluded. His last game fell on the 23rd December in the Reserves’ 3-0 defeat at Everton and his liaison with the Reds, which had lasted for just shy of ten years, ended with him having made just over 50 senior starts in all competitions. Under four different managers he had simply been unable to retain a place in the first-team for any length of time.
Upon landing in Italy, the 25 year-old was faced with the strangest of situations as, being a native of the country, it was a requirement for him to undertake national service. Officially not regarded as an Italian citizen and as such initially barred from playing for his club in league games, ironically he was eligible to represent the Italian Army and could also take part in Bologna’s Anglo-Italian Cup ties. Weirder still, his debut was in the latter competition at the unlikely venue of St. James’ Park in Newcastle.
While Bologna took their grievances to court in an attempt to get the rules changed, their new signing was selected to represent Italy in the World Military Cup in Brazzaville, Congo. The Italians had successfully seen off Algeria and Belgium in the group stage leading up to the finals with a team that contained a number of future full internationals, including Francesco Graziani, Gabriele Oriali and Ivano Bordon. During the finals, which were based on a league format, Italy drew with Kuwait and defeated the host nation, Iraq and the Ivory Coast and he and his colleagues’ efforts were rewarded when they walked off with the trophy. He continued in the Italian Army team, meeting up in Rome on Tuesdays for training and then tackling Serie B and C teams in friendly matches on Thursday evenings.
Back at Bologna, the club finally convinced the authorities to alter their rulebook and Sartori was officially registered with them on the 1st July 1973. During the following campaign he finally got his chance to feature in Serie A and, even though not included in the final, he won an Italian Cup medal when the Rossoblu defeated Palermo. Staying only the one term at the Stadia Comunale before moving on to join Spal in Serie B, he spent two years with the Ferrara-based club before going on loan to Serie C team Benevento.
With his contract due to expire at the end of that season, his sparkling form ensured that he was linked to a number of clubs, including giants Juventus and Napoli, but even so, he preferred the set-up at Lecce and instead transferred to them. For the next three years he was integral to a squad that consistently pushed for promotion to Serie A, falling just short each time, though he did collect an Anglo-Italian Cup medal when Lecce defeated Scarborough in June 1977.
He moved to Rimini in 1979 and captained the team to promotion from Serie C at his first attempt. The midfielder remained at the Stadio Romeo Neri for a couple of years longer prior to docking at Trento, his last port of call, and a final game for the club was actually at Bologna, the very club that had lured him over to Italy. It seemed that events had now gone full circle, as he was also back in the area where he was born in South Tyrol.
Wearing the distinctive blue and yellow hoops of Trento, he spent almost two years at the Stadio Briamasco and over the latter part of that period undertook his coaching exams in preparation for a job as a football manager. He was extremely happy in Italy with his Mancunian wife and two children but, because one of his brothers had passed away and the other was finding it difficult to cope with the family business, he returned to England in September 1984. The decision to bid ‘arrivederci’ was made after he had declined the offer of the player/manager job at Serie C club, Merano.
Carlo Sartori’s most vivid memories of representing Manchester United are scoring the aggregate winning goal at Anderlecht in November 1968, taking part in three gruelling F.A. Cup battles with Leeds in 1970, as well as helping to win the Daily Express five-a-side tournament that same year. He continues to work for the family knife sharpening firm to this day.