Richard (Dick) Duckworth was born in Collyhurst, Manchester. He played football for Smedley Road School before joining Harpurhey Wesleyan Juniors. He also played for Stretford before signing for Newton Heath.
By 1902 the club was £2,670 in debt and faced a winding-up order. At a shareholders' meeting in the New Islington Hall, Harry Stafford announced that he and four local businessmen, including John Henry Davies, were willing to takeover the club's debts. The Football League approved the plan and Newton Heath now became Manchester United.
Stafford, along with Davies, became a director of Manchester United and James West was appointed as manager. Davies arranged for John J. Bentley to be appointed as president of the club. However, at the end of the 1902-03 season West and Stafford were suspended by the Football Association for making illegal payments to players. In his defence, Stafford claimed: "Everything I have done has been in the interests of the club."
Ernest Mangnall became the new manager. He made several new signings. Probably the most significant was Charlie Roberts, who cost a record transfer fee of £600. Other important signings included Charlie Sagar, George Wall, John Peddie, John Picken, Thomas Blackstock and Alec Bell.
Mangnall played Duckworth at right-half. In the 1905-06 season Manchester United won promotion to the First Division when they finished second to Bristol City.
Manchester United started off the 1907-08 season with three straight wins. They were then beaten 2-1 by Middlesbrough. However, this was followed by another ten wins and United quickly built up a good advantage over the rest of the First Division. Although Liverpool beat them 7-4 on 25th March, 1908, Manchester United went on to win the title by nine points. Top scorers were Sandy Turnbull (25), George Wall (19), Jimmy Turnbull (10) and Billy Meredith (10).
Mangnall had created an impressive team that was solid in defence and exciting in attack. The former Southampton player, Harry Moger, was a reliable goalkeeper who played in 38 league games that season. Dick Holden (26) or George Stacey (18) competed for the right-back position whereas Herbert Burgess (27) was the left-back. It has been argued that the half-back line of Dick Duckworth (35), Charlie Roberts (32) and Alec Bell (35) was the heart-beat of the side. Billy Meredith (37) and George Wall (36) were probably the best wingers playing in the Football League at the time and provided plenty of service for the inside trio of Sandy Turnbull (30), Jimmy Turnbull (26) and Jimmy Bannister (36).
The following season Manchester United enjoyed a good run in the FA Cup. They beat Brighton & Hove Albion (1-0), Everton (1-0), Blackburn Rovers (6-1), Burnley (3-2) and Newcastle United (1-0) to reach the final. Newcastle, who went onto win the league that season, was obviously disappointed by being prevented from winning the double. However, the whole of the Newcastle team waited for 15 minutes in torrential rain aboard an open coach so they could applaud their conquerors after the game.
Jimmy Turnbull (5), Harold Halse (4) and Sandy Turnbull (3) got the goals during the successful cup run that got them to the final at Crystal Palace against Bristol City. As both clubs usually wore red, Bristol played in blue whereas Manchester United played in white shirts with a deep red "V". The game was disappointing and Sandy Turnbull scored the only goal in the 22nd minute.
In June 1910 Ernest Mangnal purchased Enoch West from Nottingham Forest. He replaced Jimmy Turnbull in the attack and had a great season scoring 19 goals in 35 games. West formed a great partnership with Sandy Turnbull and together they scored more than half of the team's goals. On the last Saturday of the season Aston Villa led Manchester United by one point. United had to play third-place Sunderland at Old Trafford whereas Aston Villa had to go to Liverpool.
Manchester United won their game 5-1. Charlie Roberts told the Manchester Saturday Post what happened next: "At the end of the game our supporters rushed across the ground in front of the stand to wait for the final news from Liverpool. Suddenly a tremendous cheer rent the air and was renewed again and again and we knew we were the champions once again." Aston Villa had been beaten 3-1 and Duckworth and his Manchester United had won their second championship in four years.
Duckworth suffered a severe knee injury in December 1913 that virtually ended his football career. He had scored 11 goals in 225 league appearances for the club.
After retiring from the game, Duckworth ran the Queen's Arms in Manchester.