Manchester United FC
Ground: Old Trafford
Manager: Alex Ferguson
In 1878 a club called Newton Heath LYR (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) was formed and back then little did they know that it would go on to become one of the biggest and most followed football clubs in the world. Even when the football League was formed in 1888 Newton Heath did not think they were good enough or worthy enough to be one of the founding clubs and so didn’t actually join until 1892.
At the turn of the Twentieth century Newton Heath were on the verge of closing its doors forever due to financial instability. Luckily a local brewer called John Henry Davies came in to save them having found out about their troubles by chance thanks to finding the club captains dog and engaging in a chat that would change the world of football in the future.
John Henry Davies invested and secured the clubs future in return for a hand in running the club. One of his stipulations was a name change so a few names were put on the table like Manchester Central and Manchester Celtic before they all settled on Manchester United in 1902.
Next to enter the club in 1903 and take his place in history was Ernest Mangnall, who was appointed secretary. Most people knew him as the clubs first real manager and he led Manchester United to finish third in Division Two for two consecutive years.
In the season 1906/07 Manchester United were to reclaim a spot in the top division having been relegated some twelve years earlier. With the help of influential players like Dick Duckworth, Alex Bell and captain Charlie Roberts their second place finish in Division Two was enough for promotion.
A raid on Manchester City for Billy Meredith was to prove a fabulous choice and his many assists for Sandy Turnbull in 1907/08 was instrumental in Manchester United going on to win their very first League Championship and soon after, their first silverware in the form of the Charity Shield.
1909 brought more trophies with the winning of the FA Cup having seen off Bristol City 1-0.
1908 saw the start of building work for a new football stadium under the supervision of architect Archibald Leitch and in 1910 Manchester United moved into a new 80,000 capacity stadium at Old Trafford.
It proved to be a lucky stadium (and still is) as they went on to win the League Championship in their first full season at Old Trafford and then another Charity Shield.
The next few seasons were not the best for United and saw changes in management and some very disappointing results. Then came the break for World War 1.
United returned to the football league in 1919/20 but they were without one of the former heroes Sandy Turnbull who was killed in action during the war.
The early years back after the war were very poor for Manchester United with low position finishes in the league and it got worse in 1921/22 when they were relegated having lost top staff at the club to local rivals Manchester City. They eventually won promotion back to the top flight in 1925/26 having only lost eight games during the entire season.
United again finished down the table in 1926/27 and 1927/28 and in 1929/30 they improved slightly with a finish in 12th place. But things were about to get worse, a lot worse.
In the season 1930/31 they lost twelve matches in a row and by the end of the season they had lost a massive 27 of their 42 matches in the football league having conceded 115 goals. With their terrible form continuing the supporters started to lose faith with the team, come December only 3,507 people turned up to watch the first match of the season which in turn led to a threat of bankruptcy.
They were saved thanks to James Gibson who was famous for the manufacture of army uniforms. Having invested Â£30,000 in the club the players were finally paid what they were owed, as were the creditors and there was even money to spend on new players. However the newly appointed manager Scott Duncan didnâ€™t make the most of the money available and Manchester United were the closest they had even been to relegation to the third division. They survived by the skin of their teeth on the last day of the season thanks to a 2-0 win over Milwall, which saw them relegated instead. At the same time, across town a player called Matt Busby had helped Manchester City lift the FA Cup.
The next few years saw Manchester United yo-yo between the second division and the first with very little to shout about and then the Second World War halted the Football League once more.
The war saw Old Trafford take a direct hit from a German bomb which meant a short period of sharing Maine Road with Manchester City. During the war the Manchester City hero Matt Busby served with the Ninth Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment and he was noted for his genuine leadership qualities.
In 1945 Matt Busby was asked to join Manchester United as manager and he immediately started to change things around with the players and bring in someone he met and befriended during the war, Jimmy Murphy to be his assistant.
Their combined skills helped Manchester United finish second to Liverpool in their first season which was the clubs highest finish for some 36 years.
Matt Busby’s skill at mixing together local boys along with the established players (something still very much done today at Manchester United) helped to create a winning team when they lifted the FA Cup once more, some 39 years since they last managed to win it.
Suddenly Manchester United was on the up and was once again the talk of Manchester. Fans flooded back with over 1 million of them watching from the terraces in the 1947/48 season.
The 1950â€™s were once again time for change. Unrest in the club saw two of its key players Johnny Morris and Charlie Mitten leave for pastures new. Fans were clearly worried what affect this would have on results but Matt Busby had a plan and he introduced the first of the â€˜Busby Babesâ€™. These were the youngsters he had carefully been nurturing in the shape of Jackie Blanchflower and Roger Byrne. It proved to be the right decision as in their very first season playing at the top level for Manchester United they helped the team win the League Championship, something they had not achieved since 1911.
More ‘Busby Babes’ were introduced and in consecutive seasons 1955/56 and 1956/57 United secured the Championship title again.
Note* The youngest of the Busby Babes was an exceptional player called Duncan Edwards who was so good he was a first team player at just 16 years old.
1 February 1958 was to be not only one of the best performances of the team when they beat Arsenal in a 9 goal thriller, it was also to be the last for the team as a whole. After beating Arsenal they headed off to play the second leg of their European tie with Red Star Belgrade. The return journey was to be one of the most tragic events involving high profile football players ever.
RIP – Byrne, Colman, Jones, Pegg, Taylor, Geoff Bent, Liam Whelan and football prodigy Duncan Edwards. All lost their lives subsequent to the team plane crashing on the way home from the tie. The football community around the world but none more so than in Manchester went into mourning and feared whether United could ever recover from the tragedy.
Matt Busby picked up severe injuries in the crash but he defied the medics and recovered from the wounds he picked up and together with a patched up Jimmy Murphy the team managed to reach an FA Cup final in May 1958 (losing to Bolton Wanderers).
Matt Busby had built one of the most formidable teams in the world before tragedy took them away. In 1960 he started the process off again. Munich survivors Dennis Viollet, Bill Foulkes, and Bobby Charlton were also part of the new era and Nobby Stiles rose through the ranks while Denis Law was recruited from Torino.
It took a couple of seasons for the new team to settle in but in 1962/63 they lifted the FA Cup once again. The following season United finished second to Liverpool in the league. 1962/63 United signed a young Belfast player who would go on to become the very first true football star. His silky skills on the pitch and his incredible pace made George Best a massive hit with the fans, whilst off pitch he attracted lots of female attention thanks to his â€˜film starâ€™ looks and personality.
With George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law now in the team, Manchester United were soaring.
1964/65 saw them win the League and reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the European Fairs Cup and Law was named as the European Footballer of the Year.
1965/66 was lack lustre for United with a fourth place League finish and no silverware but the following season saw them with the League Championship once again. They also won the European Cup final thanks to goals from Charlton, Best and Brian Kidd just 10 years after the air disaster had destroyed the team.
Deservedly Matt Busby was knighted soon afterwards.
1969 was a disappointing season for United and it marked the end of an era as Sir Matt Busby announced his retirement. The vacancy was filled within by Wilf McGuinness but with Sir Matt still very much looking over his shoulder, the placement of Denis Law and Shay Brennan on the transfer list and the start of the downfall of the great George Best away from the football pitch, meant poor team performances and in 1970 (Boxing Day), Sir Matt assumed temporary charge of the team once more.
Frank O’Farrell took over from Matt but even though he had seemed to start well the 5-1 defeat by Crystal Palace on 16 December 1972 was to be his last game in charge at Manchester United.
Next up was Tommy Docherty at Christmas 1972.
Tommy Docherty had a huge task as many of the key players were nearing the end of their careers. Some (namely George Best) was struggling off the field with drink addiction, Sir Bobby Charlton announced his retirement in 1973 and Law was allowed a free transfer to local rivals Manchester City, something that came back and bit Tommy Docherty on the backside in 1974 when he scored for City at Old Trafford on the day that saw United relegated to Division 2.
Tommy Docherty guided them straight back up the following season with promotion secured on 5 April 1975 by a goal from big Lou Macari.
1976 and 1977 saw two FA Cup finals, the first a loss to Southampton and the next a win against Liverpool. However Tommy Docherty was sacked in shame as it was confirmed that he had moved in with his lover Mary, the wife of the club physiotherapist Laurie Brown.
Dave Sexton, the former QPR manager was next to take over the manager’s chair at Old Trafford and in his first two seasons in charge 1977/78 and 1978/79 he was only able to finish no higher than tenth although in 1979 they were again in the FA Cup final only to lose in one of the most memorable cup finals ever.
Gordon McQueen and then Sammy McIlroy levelled the score in the last 5 minutes having been 2-0 down. The crowd and United players were readying themselves for extra time but Arsenal hadn’t quite finished and just as extra beckoned Alan Sunderland scored the winner to lift the FA cup and defeat United.
On 30th April 1981 Sexton was sacked due to another two poor seasons for United and he was replaced by Ron Atkinson. Big Ron immediately went to work and broke the transfer record by signing Bryan Robson from his former club West Brom for a staggering Â£1.5 million and then a bit less for Remi Moses. The new players were the ideal solution and complimented the rest of the team but although they now had one of the best midfields in the country they still lacked the firepower up front similar to the likes of Liverpool’s Ian Rush who was helping them secure league titles in 1982, 1983 and 1984.
Atkinson led United to two FA Cup wins but his inability to stop Liverpool’s dominance of the league title meant he was replaced in 1986 by a guy from Aberdeen called Alex Ferguson who had won every Scottish honour and even a European Cup Winners Cup by beating Real Madrid with unlikely side Aberdeen.
The turnaround at Manchester United was not instant and it took a few seasons and patience before the current united known today was born.
The 1990 FA Cup win, having been taken to a replay thanks to a magnificent comeback by Palace speared on by substitute Ian Wright, was to be the beginning of a new dawn for Manchester United.
Next was the European Cup final against Barcelona, the former club of Mark Hughes who helped United win with 2 strikes. Then came more silverware under Fergie with the League Cup and very nearly a league title but they were beaten by Liverpool which handed the title to Leeds United. There was a consolation however as Leeds for some reason allowed Manchester United to purchase a Frenchman called Eric Cantona. He immediately proved a hit and an important player and at last Manchester United took the League title in 1992/93.
1993/94 was the League and FA Cup double for United but 1995 saw Cantona banned from the game for a moment of sheer madness when he Kung Fu kicked a Crystal Palace fan. His absence proved to have a dire effect on the team and they lost out on any league title’s or silverware until 1995/96 when upon his return Cantona’s wonder strike helped them do the double-double with the FA Cup win. He also proved an inspiration to the new young players in the side such as David Beckham and Gary Neville.
1997 was a fourth League title until Cantona decided that his future was as a poet and actor and so to the shock of the entire football world he retired.
1998/89 another youngster named Ryan Giggs scored a magnificent solo effort to secure yet another FA Cup final which United went on to win. Later that year United staged a miracle comeback against Bayern with late goals from Sherringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to secure the teams first ever treble. History was made and Ferguson was knighted.