A care worker who used his Manchester United connections to groom children has been jailed for 15 years.
Bruce McLean, 62, was sentenced at Chester Crown Court on Monday for abusing boys in the 1970s and 1980s, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.
The court heard he abused children while working at the Taxal Edge care home in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, and Kilrie care home in Knutsford, Cheshire, and also abused a boy at the Rosebank care home in Warrington, where his father worked.
McLean worked at Taxal Edge children’s home between 1974 and 1978 – leaving the year before paedophile football coach Barry Bennell took up a post there.
Cheshire Police said they had investigated a possible link between McLean and the former Crewe Alexandra coach – convicted of 50 sexual offences against boys last year – but no evidence had been found to suggest their connection was more than “coincidence”.
The court heard McLean, who was jailed for sexual assaults against children in 1997, would take boys to watch Manchester United train at The Cliff ground and give the children gifts of sportswear.
He said he had known footballers, including goalkeeper Gary Bailey, but denied that he had arranged trips to watch them train in order to “gratify” children.
McLean was found guilty of 13 charges relating to four victims following a trial in November 2018.
He faced a retrial on other charges which the jury could not reach a verdict on and in July was found guilty of nine counts of sexual assault against four victims, a spokesman for the CPS said.
He was acquitted of all counts of assault against another complainant.
Rachael Barber, of Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service, said: “McLean came across to these impressionable boys as someone they could turn to.
“He had friends on the Manchester United football team and regularly took boys in his care to watch them train. He would also buy them presents and clothes.
“These vulnerable children enjoyed the attention, but McLean’s motives were sinister.”
Detective Inspector Sarah Oliver, who led the investigation, said: “I’d like to take this opportunity to praise the victims for their bravery; even more so as some had to experience reliving their trauma a second time due to the retrial.
“The impact of crimes like this on the victims should not be underestimated. They have had to live with memories of the abuse for many years and I truly hope that today’s result helps them in some way come to terms with their past.
“It took a lot of courage to get to the point of being able to talk fully about the abuse they had to endure and then to brave having to relive their abuse in the witness stand.”
McLean, of Runcorn Road in Moore, Cheshire, was also ordered to remain on the Sexual Offenders Register for life.