The young left-back has arrived at McDiarmid Park for a season-long loan and will compete with Callum Booth for game-time in Callum Davidson’s side over the course of the 2021/2022 campaign.
Eric Nicolson looks deeper into the United-Saints connection, starting with the obvious.
In ‘Never Give In’, the acclaimed documentary of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United’s greatest ever manager pinpoints the hat-trick he scored for Saints against Rangers as the defining moment of his football career.
Before then, the young striker was toiling to make his mark at Muirton Park and was starting to give serious thought to a new life in Canada.
In one of the great sporting sliding-doors moments, Sir Alex’s profile rocketed on the back of those three goals at Ibrox and he was subsequently signed by his boyhood club.
The affection he retained for Saints was reflected in the fact that he brought his United side to Perth to play the match that officially opened McDiarmid Park in 1989.
He also sent a young team up for Alan Main’s testimonial and was a guest of the club for a game against Aberdeen in 2013.
The less legendary centre-forward
Nobody is likely to describe Peter Davenport as a legend at either club.
His goalscoring record at Old Trafford was far from disastrous in the late 80s (22 in 92 appearances) but he didn’t hit the heights that had earned him his £750,000 move from Nottingham Forest and one England cap.
With Saints under Paul Sturrock there were just five goals in 22 games in the 1994-95 campaign.
Mind you, Davenport was 33 by this point, it was the first year after Saints were relegated from the top-flight and he did come off the bench to score in a thrilling Boxing Day comeback against Dunfermline that transformed a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 victory.
Davenport went on to manage Macclesfield, with another ex-Saint Allan Preston his assistant.
Fun fact – he became a qualified coarse angling instructor.
Devine isn’t the first left-back to make the switch from Manchester to McDiarmid. That was Sean McAuley.
Alex Totten paid £80,000 for a young defender for whom the United first team proved a bridge too far.
McAuley certainly wasn’t the worst signing of an era of declining standards under Totten, John McLelland and the first full season of Sturrock’s reign. But nor was he an unequivocal success.
It was arguably a game he was dropped for – the ’92 Skol Cup semi-final when Ian Redford was selected to play against Rangers in his place – that he is most remembered, rather than the 60-plus he played.
There was a Scottish bloodline that earned him an under-21 appearance before he returned to England to finish his playing days in the lower leagues.
The coaching career is still going strong.
McAuley has put down roots in America and is part of the backroom team at MLS side, Minnesota United.
Mark Lynch made Manchester United history.
Just not the sort you would shout about.
As a 21-year-old he made his debut for United in the Champions League – all good so far.
But his own goal as a substitute makes him the only Red Devil to play once and score (in his own net) once.
Mark Lynch (with the Manchester Senior Cup 2004) celebrates his 39th birthday today. His one and only senior appearance for United came in the Champions League at Deportivo la Coruna where he scored, unfortunately it was an own goal, in a 2-0 loss. Now runs a fitness business pic.twitter.com/mpbGMPjVrK
— Red_Devil (@RetroRed2) September 2, 2020
Thankfully, the game against Deportivo la Coruna was a dead rubber and Sir Alex’s men had already qualified for the quarter-finals.
This all happened a couple of years after Lynch had featured in 20 games on loan for Saints.
If McAuley didn’t play for the Perth side at a good time, multiply that several times over as far as Lynch is concerned.
This was the season of Saints’ relegation – by 19 points.
“Obviously St Johnstone are nowhere near the stature of Manchester United and they were struggling at the time, which was something I had not been used to,” Lynch said in an interview a couple of years ago.
“I found it difficult at first and it was a steep learning curve to play in such a competitive league, and against teams like Celtic and Rangers.
“It was my first time living away from home and losing every week took its toll on my confidence but, looking back, it was what I needed.”
The recent ones
Matty Willock looked the part in his short spell with Saints – 11 games in the second half of the 2017/18 season.
Tommy Wright was impressed with what he saw of the box-to-box midfielder and was keen to bring him back the following year.
Willock ended up at St Mirren instead, however, failing to make an impact with the Paisley Saints.
Sean Goss, who played for United in a pre-season game against PSG but never in a competitive fixture, was a big disappointment as a Saints loan signing in 2019.
He had looked a class act when he was at Rangers and Wright expected something similar in Perth.
His seven games (only two of which were for the full 90 minutes) told a different story, however.
In the anti-climactic loan charts for St Johnstone, Goss’s name will be near the very top.
Now here was a man with a life well-lived.
After serving in The Black Watch and the Royal Navy during World War One, Neil McBain of Campbelltown and Ayr United got his big move to Manchester in 1921, when a fee of £4,600 was paid.
The wing-half (midfielder) earned his first cap for Scotland against England not long after, a 1-0 victory at Villa Park.
McBain played for Everton before Saints made him their record signing for £1,000 in 1926.
1926 | St Johnstone pay a then club record £1,000 for the services of Neil McBain from Everton. pic.twitter.com/klMyrj1ol7
— Saints On This Day (@SaintsOTD) June 23, 2019
Given the captain’s armband straightaway, he scored a winner against Rangers not long after.
After two years in Perth, McBain joined a select group to play for both United and Liverpool when he moved to Anfield.
None of the above, as impressive as it was, secures his unique spot in football history.
That was achieved in 1947 when as manager of New Brighton, he played in goal against Hartlepool United at the age of 51 years and 120 days.
McBain remains to this day the oldest man to play in the English Football League.