Hartford, Cheshire born centre half Clarrie “Lal” Hilditch had played for Hartford and Cheshire League clubs Witton Albion before the First World War, joining First Division club Manchester United in January 1914, initially as an outside left. He hadn’t played first team football by the time the onset of the War forced the suspension of peacetime football in May 1915, and during the War he scored 18 goals in 17 wartime fixtures for Altrincham in 1915-16 and also played wartime league football for Manchester United. He returned to Old Trafford after the conflict, by now playing centre half, making his Football League debut at Derby County in August 1919.
He immediately became a regular member of the first eleven and was club captain from 1919 to 1922 until the arrival of Frank Barson from Aston Villa. In the summer of 1920 he was selected by the Football Association to be part of the 20-man squad that travelled to South Africa for a 14 match tour. Hilditch featured in all three ‘tests’ against South Africa but it was the closest he came to international recognition.
He remained with the club after their relegation in 1922, a season in which he alternated between centre half and right half, where he first appeared in January 1921 with regularity, and he was a near ever present in their 1923-24 campaign, when he missed only one march. Although he missed most of the 1924-25 season with injury, when Manchester United were promoted as Second Division runners up, he again returned in their first top flight campaign, mainly playing right half, and in their second he mainly featured at left half. In April 1927, he shared a benefit match against Sunderland with club team mates Jack Silcock and George Haslam.
In October 1926, after John Chapman was suspended for unknown reasons, Hilditch took over the manager’s job for the rest of the year overseeing 30 matches in addition to his playing duties, with him becoming one of only two men to have been simultaneously a player and the manager at Manchester United (the other being Ryan Giggs). He returned to the centre half role in January 1929 and despite their relegation in 1930 he played one more season in the Second Division, playing his last match, a victory over Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford in January 1932, by when he was already 37. He scored 7 times in 322 appearances for Manchester United over thirteen post war seasons at Old Trafford before his retirement.