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Manchester United - History 1892-1976
  
  

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   Red11.org presents:
 

The History Of Manchester United 1892-1976 (to be cont'd)

   
         

   


The first United Team "Newton Heath" 1892/3

 
         

1892-93

    Queen Victoria was on the throne, William Gladstone was the Prime Minister, and Manchester was under a cholera scare, and Newton Heath was about to join the application being turned down year after year. In fact the first year they had applied (1885) they had only gained one vote.

Newton Heath a local Manchester team had started playing in 1878, a group of railway workers for Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways have formed the first team. They played at a small ground in North Road on Monsall Road Newton Heath. They were a resounding success that first season and soon picked up the nickname "the Heathens". In 1885 they turned professional and were admitted to the Football Alliance after their efforts to join the Football league failed. Eventually they were admitted in 1892 when the Division one was expanded from 14 to 16 clubs and a second Division added. Their neighbors across town Ardwick (later to become Manchester City) were also allowed to join the league, but they started their history in the second division. The first game for the newly elected club pitted them against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, it took place it a torrential rain storm at 4pm Saturday Sept 3rd 1892.

Blackburn had already established themselves as a leading Football force, they had won the FA Cup 5 times and fielded a team that was packed with International players. Blackburn swept into the lead against the newly promoted Manchester club and was soon up by a score of 3-0, but before half time The 'Heathens' had rallied with goals from Donaldson and Coupar and the teams trooped off at the half with Newton Heath down by only one goal. In the second half the Rovers regained control, but Newton gave them a run for their money and the match finished 4-3 to Blackburn.

The goal scored by Fred Donaldson went down in history as the first goal ever scored in league play by the team that would later become Manchester United, Donaldson went on to score 16 goals in that inaugural season, including a hatrick in the record 10-1 league win against Wolves (I believe that record still stands today). That first season almost ended with the Heathens being relegated with the club starting their history with a run of 7 consecutive defeats. At the end of the season they sat on the foot of the table having conceded 85 goals and picking up only 18 total points.

It was then the Football League realised that they had not made any provision for relegation/promotion and they decided that the bottom three teams in Div 1 would play the top three teams in Div 2 to decide the issue. Newton Heath found themselves drawn against Small Heath (now Birmingham City). Small Heath had topped the 2nd Div having lost only 3 matches all season, they were runaway favourites to defeat the team from Manchester. The match was played at Stoke in front of 4,000 fans and ended in a 1-1 draw. And again the Football League was stumped, they had not given any thought to what action they would take in case of a draw! It was decided that the teams would play a replay match, and that match was played the following week at Sheffield and the Heathens ran out 5-2 winners and thus ensured 1st Div football would stay in Manchester.

That first season the club had played their matches at a small ground in North Road, Monsall road, Newton Heath. The field was a swamp and the dressing rooms were half a mile down the road in the Three Crowns pub, after receiving complaints from just about every visiting team they moved across town to another field in Clayton (Bank Street) This new ground was larger and had more capacity for spectators, but it had its problems, it was located next to a large chemical plant, and when the wind blew a certain direction everyone had to contend with toxic fumes. The club had to again try to find a suitable home field.

September 3rd 1892 Newton Heath 3 - 4 Blackburn Rovers
Attendance : 8,000
Team: Warner (GK), Clements (FB), Brown (FB), Perrins, Stewart, and Errantz (backs), Farman and Couper (halfbacks), Donaldson (right wing), Carson (centre), Mathieson (left wing)

Newton Heath's first season turned out to be a near disaster with only a victory in a relegation/promotion playoff game saved them from dropping into the lower division. Their first home game was against Burnley and the result was a 1-1 tie, heavy defeats followed from Everton (6-0) Burnley (4-0), West Brom (4-0) Then came an amazing triumph a victory over Wolves 10-1 at the North road Ground, but more defeats followed and they finished their first season in 16th place (last) with 18 points and conceding 85 goals. They won their playoff game 5-2 against Stoke City in a replay after the first game turned out a 1-1, the game was played at North Road in front of 4,000 on mud path of a pitch. The facilities in those days were not very good and the teams actually changed in a pub down the road called the Three Crowns (anyone know if its still there?) .
 
         

1893-94

    1894 didn't bring much joy to the Club nicknamed the Heathens. Newton Heath's second season turned out to be worst than the first when they again finished at the bottom of the League, this time with only six wins in 30 games. They were again scheduled to play a make or break playoff game to decide their fate, this time the opponent was Liverpool who had only been in existence for two years and had won the second div without losing a game.

The Merseyside club had only been in existence for two years and that year had topped the second Div without losing a single match. They were the out and out favorites to win the match and true to form they ran out two goal winners in a match played at Blackburn in front of 6,000 fans.

Visiting teams had complained so much about the apalling conditions at North Road that the Club moved across town prior to the season begining to a ground in Bank street, Clayton. This new home proved to be not much of an improvement due to a chemical works that stood next to the ground that bellowed out toxic fumes that drifted across the pitch.

1894 was notable for one other important match in our history, it was the first year the Manchester derby was played. It was not the first time the two clubs had met however having played each other many times in Manchester Cup and FA Cup ties, and even had faced each other in Football Alliance league play, but this was to be the first official Football league meeting of the two Manchester teams. The match was played at Ardwick (Hyde Road) which was City's home ground and drew a crowd of 15,000 which was the largest crowd to have watched a match in Manchester (excepting the 1893 Cup final which had been held at Fallowfield) The Heathens made short work of the City side and ran away with a 5-2 victory, the return match Newton Heath beat City again 4-1.

The first match marked the debut of a player who was to go down in history as one of the greatest player in both clubs history, Billy Meredith played for City that day, but in later years he was to don the red shirt of Manchester United and cover himself in glory. .....
 
         

1895

    The Heathens had been playing at Bank Steet since leaving the mud of North Road in 1893, but bank street turned out to be just as bad and visiting teams continued to complain. On the 9th of March 1895 Walsall Town were the visitors, after arriving they inspected the pitch and immediately lodged a complaint with the League, they grumbled it was not fit for schoolboys to play on. Newton responded by throwing on another layer of sand and thus the fixture took place as scheduled.

This was a regular 2nd division match, with the Heathens attacking from the outset, and by halftime they had a comfortable lead of 3-0, Newton really went to town in the second half though running a score of 14-0 before the ref blew the final whistle. The Football League however were not impressed with the Heathens victory and after more complaints from the Walsall players who were supported by the ref a Mr Jefferies they cancelled the result and demanded the teams play again. And after Newtin had worked on the pitch for a week they did play, the result? Heathens 9 Walsall 0, Newton had scored a total of 23 goals in the two matches. The season was a little more successful than the previous, but although they spent much of the year in second place they did not gain promotion. ----
 
         

1896-97

    After their best season in years Newton Heath finished in 2nd place in the 2nd div and in the play-offs with Burnley and Sunderland who had finished at the bottom of Div 1 and Notts County who had won the 2nd div championship. After beating Burnley 2-0 at home they lost by the same score in the return match and then faced Sunderland at Bank street, the Sunderland team had been having much success prior to ths season having taking the div 1 championships in 92,93 and 95, but they had fallen on hard times this year (although this was not to last very long).

More than 18,000 fans turned out for the game which finished in a 1-1 tie and sent the Heathens to Roker park and Notts County only needing a tie to secure a 1st div place, alas this was not to happen they lost both games and had to settle for another season in div 2. ----
 

 

       

1898

    As 1898 drew to a close Newton Heath and across town rivals Man City were the top two teams in the 2nd div, with a team called "New Brighton Tower" in third.

On boxing day the two teams faced each other the Heathens coming off a 9-0 thrashing of Darwen while City were also coming off a big win against Blackpool (4-2).

Confidence was high but it was City who came out the victors making short work of their neighbors in a 4-0 thrashing, Newton never recovered from this and finished the season in 3rd place ( 3 points behind Glossop North End and 6 points behind City who won the title and promotion to the first ).

Once more they had challenged for promotion only to fall by the wayside. In five seasons in the second they had never finished lower than sixth. ----
 

 

       

1899

    1899 was to be known for the infamous riots between Celtic and Rangers, after a Scottish Cup final replay the fans tried to burn down the ground and trouble continued for several hours in the streets of Glasgow with 81 policemen having to be treated in hospital.

There was also trouble at Everton"s Goodison Park after the ref had abandoned a game. Newton Heath had their own problems with a "scandal" behind the scenes when two players (Boyd and Cunnigham) were suspended by the club for their extracurricular activities.

The two players were have said to have been drinking, the Athletic News reported: "If men who are paid good wages don't think it worth their while to keep themselves in condition they are better off out of the team". The week following these suspensions it was the fans turn , after the Heathens took a 2-1 defeat at New Brighton Tower a group of supporters took action by surrounding the ref as he walked off the field jeering and booing him. The situation could have been worse if it hadn't been for several Club officials and Policemen who escorted the poor ref to dressing room safety. By all reports the ref had been very poor and the youths had been provoked by the dubious refereeing.

The result of the game seriously dented any hopes of Newton Heath's promotion chances for that year. ----
 

 

       

1900

    The start to the 20th century held little relief for the Heathens who had acheived little in recent years and were languishing in the shadow of their rivals Man city who had been recently promoted to the 1st div.

The team at that time did see a few changes with Frank Barrett in goal Harry Stafford and Fred Erentz at the fullback positions, Morgan Griffiths and Carwright were regular choices for the halve back line while up front Bryant, jackson and Cassidy were the regulars.

The club had forged strong links Wales at the time and boasted seven Welsh internationals in the lineup, many of them arriving in Manchester looking for work on the railroad.

Although rich in welsh international talent the Club had not a single English International on the books (Billy Bryant was picked to represent the Football League). ----
 
         

1901

    Newton Heath at the turn of the century were indeed at their lowest ebb, after a decade in the Fottball league all they had to show was two years in the top flight (both years finishing at the bottom) and eight years in the second.

It was decided by the directors that new players had to be bought, but there were no funds available so a Bazzar was arranged by the club to attempt to raise cash. The event was to start on Wednesday 27th Feb and run for 4 days, the Manchester Evening News reported that the Northern military and Bess-o'th-barn Brass bands would be playing.

The Bazzar ended on Saturday evening but after paying off the cost of renting the hall it was found that the event had hardly been a success and the funds needed still had not been found. The Club's fortunes then took a strange twist when Harry Stafford, the Newton Heath captain who owned a St Bernard dog, had taken the dog to the Bazzar and tied a collecting box around its neck. The dog escaped from the hall and was found wandering the City by a Pub landord, who showed it to a Mr Henry Davies who was then a managing director of the Manchester Brewers.

Davies took a fancy to the dog and immediatley bought it off the landord. Feeling guilty Davies decided to trace the dog's owner and soon found out that it belonged to the Newton captain, after meeting with Stafford the businessman decided to help and made a financial contribution to the club, and made further promises of help for the future.

Stafford did not forget that promise! ----
 
         

1902-03

    The name of Newton Heath was not liked by all, they had left their home in Newton Heath 9 years previously, and following the reorganisation of the Club many called for a name change.

Manchester Central was suggested, but it was decided that it sounded too much like a railway station, also suggested and rejected was Manchester Celtic, then a Mr Louis Rocca hit upon the name Manchester United.

The name had been suggested before but had not met much support, but this time it stuck and on Saturday 26th April 1902 Newton Heath became Manchester United.

This must have pleased many of the visiting teams and supporters who for years had been showing up for games at the old Newton Heath only to find a dilapidated and empty pitch, and then had to dash across town to arrive minutes before the kickoff.

Manchester United's manager in 1902 was a Mr James West, under him they had begun the season very poorly with two defeats and a draw, on Monday 28th Sept he resigned his position and Mr Ernest Mangall became the new United manager.

Mangall joined the club from Burnley where he had served as secretary. he would go on to become United's first "great" manager. The new manager had been born in Bolton and was well known in sporting circles in the North west, he was known in particular for his love of cycling. During his youth had actually cycled the length of Great Britain from John O Groats to Lands end and could often be spotted riding his bike to the ground.

With United's financial status at last secure Mangall proved himself a shrewd buyer in the transfer market, he brought goalie Harry Moger to United, along with Alex Bell, Dick Duckworth, and a great centre half in Charlie Roberts.

His greatest coup however was bringing the great Billy Meredith across from Man City. Other Man City rebels quickly followed Meredith's path and United stole away Herbert Burgess, Sandy Turnbull, and Jimmy Bannister from their rivals.

Meredith and Roberts were considered the most talented players in the land at the time. ----
 
         

1904-05

    Manchester United's manager Mangnall was building a side that looked better than anything the fans had seen so far.

20 year old Charlie Roberts was to be proved a great buy, Mangnall had signed him from Grimsby for the grand total of 400 pounds. He was sturdily built and extremely fast. It was reported that he could run the hundred yards in 11 seconds. At the time the world record stood at 9.6 seconds!

Vittorio Pozzo the Italian national team coach was reported to be a huge fan of Roberts and took back to Italy a lasting memory of the player after he visited Clayton to watch him play.

Pozzo went on to create one of the finest pre war teams ever to play the game, he had stated publicly that Roberts had been is inspiration.

Strangely enough, the English team selectors didn't seem to agree and Roberts only played for England 3 times, it was believed that his image as somewhat of a rebel contributed to him being ignored this way.

Roberts wore his shorts short, this was a time when the FA had ruled that all shorts were to cover the knee, he had also been a pioneer in the Players Union becoming its chairman and later becoming a leader in the "outcasts" (to be explained later).

On Boxing day 1904 United entertained Liverpool at Clayton, 40 000 fans showed up for the game and United defeated the Merseysiders 3-1.

It was a high point in the season though, because Liverpool took their revenge 4 months later and hammered United 4-0 at Anfield to finish the season at the top of the table and again deny United the promotion they desperately desired.
 

 

       

1906

    After 12 unhappy seasons in the second division 1906 was the year that United finally claimed their place again in the top flight.

One of the seasons finest results in the Clubs young history was a Cup tie win over the mighty Aston villa, villa had won the League Championship in 1894,1896,1897,1899 and 1900 they had also won the FA Cup in years 1887,1895,1897 and 1905.

Everyone had Villa as hot favorites to hammer the 2nd div United, but before a record crowd of over 40,000 (gate receipts 1,460 pound). United proceeded to hammer the Villa team 5-1 on the mud bath Clayton pitch. United's joy was short lived though Woolwich Arsenal beat them in the next round 3-2.

Promotion was clinched with a 3-1 victory over Leeds City (yes they were called City back then) and United finished the season out in style by trouncing Burton United 6-0 at Clayton. When the final whistle blew the crowd invaded the pitch and carried the team shoulder high from the field.

Ernest Mangnall addressed the cheering fans and promised them that this was only the beginning. He was right! --
 

 

       

1907

    1907 was the year that Manchester United finally arrived as a major force in the footballing world.

Boasting an exciting lineup and playing a brand of football that was to become a hallmark at the club. The backbone of the team had come across from their rivals Man City after a sensational scandal had erupted at the Ardwick club.

Players were all supposed to be on a fixed wage of 4 pounds per game, it was discovered that City had been paying 6 or 7 ounds a week per player.

The FA were furious about this discovery and dismissed five of the Man City directors and banned 17 of its players from ever appearing in a blue shirt again. Mangnall acted swiftly and managed first of all to sign Billy Meredith (in 1906) he later added the services of 4 other City players.

Meredith had also been involved in a bribe fiasco and it is said he was lucky not to be banned from the game for life. It is interesting to note here that although the players were signed in 1906, they all were serving FA mandated suspensions, so they did not make their debut's in a Red shirt until 1907.

Billy Meredith was known as the 'Welsh wizard' he provided the spark that set apart man united from other clubs establishing a tradition for players of the highest quality to follow him. he was the George Best of the Edwardian era - rebellious, skilled and popular.

Many questions about the players long layoffs were soon answered in the first game of 1907 against Aston villa when an inspired Meredith darted and teased the Villa defence, finally plotting its downfall by laying on a cross for Turnball to slam into the net.

By the end of the season United had climbed to 8th place and their brand of football was the talk of the town, more importantly they were poised to make an assault one the big prize, the Championship ! --
 
         

1908

   

The 1908 season began in fine style for the men from Clayton, a 4-1 hammering of Villa, a 4-0 win against Liverpool and a 2-1 win over Middlesbourgh, after 14 games had been played United had only dropped 2 points and stood (for the first time) proudly on top of Div 1.

The wins were not squeaked out either, six against Newcastle away, Five at Blackburn, four against Everton, Arsenal and Birmingham. United's football was the talk of the footballing press! but despite the roaring start to the season they finished it rather slowly, with a run of 7 defeats in a row. But they were the Champions for the first time and set a new league record with 82 goals scored Following the season end the United board decided to reward the team with a trip to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

They first played a combined Vienna Sport and vienna FC team and won comfortably 4-0 and then travelled on by train to Budapest for two games against Ferencvaros. United won the first 6-2, but the second sparked off a minor diplomatic incident.

United started the game in roaring style and the Hungarian fans applauded in admiration for the English Champions, but United continued to pile it on, and the scene turned sour as the referee sent off three United players and a mini riot developed.

Eventually the police got the scene under control and United finished the game with 8 players, and a 7-0 win. But it was not to end there, as the ref blew the final whistle stones were hurled from the terraces, players were spat on and police had to finally charge the crowd with swords drawn to disperse the throng. United were transported by open top bus to their hotel, and encountered another mob that rained stones down upon them, several players sustained head wounds before the police again got the crowd under control.

The Hungarian authorities apologised profusely and United diplomatically shrugged the incidents off and promised to return again the following year.

Upon arriving back in Manchester Mangnall vowed he would never go back to Hungary. ----

 
         

1909

    Following their first Championship victory United played QPR in the Charity Shield match, the game was played at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge and finished in a 1-1 tie, a replay was arranged and this time more than 40,000 turned out to watch United put on an impressive display with Turnbull getting a hatrick in their 4-0 win.

In United's history they had come no closer to winning the FA Cup than the 8th round, with the Championship trophy tucked away in the boardroom they now set sights on the only major British trophy that had so far alluded them.-- they started the campaign with a win against Southern league Brighton 1-0. and in the second round were drawn at home again this time against Everton.

The Toffees were eliminated by a goal from Halse and the Reds marched on. The Rovers of Blackburn were United's next victim getting a severe 6-1 thrashing at Clayton. For the first time that year they were drawn away in the next round to 2nd div Burnley and were down a goal to nil and looked like they were going out of the Cup again at the eight round when Mother Nature stepped in. Snow started to fall in the 18th minute of the game, it turned into a blizzard and the ref had no option but to call off the tie.

The replay favored the Reds and they won a 3-2 contest. United were now in the semi-finals for the first time in their history, they faced stiff opposition though in the Cup Holders Newcastle. The Geordie's fell to another goal from Halse and United were through to the final. (Newcastle did go on to win the Championship).

The final took place at the Crystal Palace and Bristol City were United's opponents. The City of Manchester was gripped with Cup fever and train excursions to London were offered to the fans for 11 shillings each. United were forced to change their strip and instead of their usual scarlet red they wore white with a red "V".

The City of Manchester poured into the Capital and despite the threat of rain 70,000 fans packed into the ground to watch Turnbull score the only goal of the game and with it win the Cup for United. Billy Meredith is said to have been the difference in the two sides, although by most accounts it was a poor game.

After their Cup win the United team were taken to the Alhambra Theatre where they were entertained by football 's favorite comedian of the time Mr George Robey, accompanying united fans in tweed caps and jackets were a stark contrast to the clientele of the dress circle in their evening jackets and bow ties. The next morning there was something of a scare when the lid to the cup could not be found, it was eventually discovered in the pocket of Sandy Turnbulls jacket where some practical joker had hid it.

The United team arrived at central station Manchester at 3:30pm that afternoon and were surprised to find an estimated 300,000 fans waiting to welcome them back home, with the brass band playing "see, the conquering hero comes' Mangnall opened the door of his carriage and lifted the old trophy high to a huge roar from the crowd, following Mangnall dressed in cloth cap came Charlie Roberts and the rest of the United team, many of them wearing red and white hats.

A Motor coach took them through the City and all along the route people hung from windows, climbed statues, perched on roof's all to get a glimpse of their hero's.

Never before had Albert Square seen such scenes. The procession continued to the Clayton ground where over 30,000 fans had been awaiting them for over 3 hours. It was to be the old Clayton grounds finest hour, for United had already given notice that they would be soon quitting its muddy fields for a new stadium being built at Old Trafford. United still had a game left to play and not surprisingly lost to Arsenal, after the game United's chairman took the FA Cup and filled it with champagne, he then took it to the Arsenal dressing room and invited them to drink to United's health.

In August 1909 4 months after winning the FA cup the whole Manchester United team was suspended by the FA for refusing to renounce the trade union they had help form. At the outset it had been every professional player in the country that had joined the Union, but after pressure from the FA they dropped out one by one until only the Manchester United team was left, the United players stood firm and gained themselves the nickname "the outcasts".

It seemed like the end of the season before it started for the club that had just begun to taste success, but when all seemed lost Tim Coleman of Everton walked out on his team mates and sided with the United players, Newcastle United, Middlesborough, and Sunderland all changed their minds also and were followed soon by the rest of the Everton team and the Liverpool team.

The FA backed down and a muddled agreement was signed. The crisis was over.

It is thanks to that United team that the Player Union survived and exists to this day. ----
 
         

1910

    The move to a new stadium had been agreed to in 1908, Clayton was a disgrace of a pitch, during the winter months it was a quagmire and hardly a fitting place for a team that had won the FA Cup and Championship. The old stadium was sold to the Manchester Corporation for 5,000 pounds and the new site in Trafford Park was purchased with the help of a grant for 60,000 pounds.

The new stadium was planned to be the largest and finest in the country, it was originally designed to hold 100,000 fans, but after construction estimates soared an additional 30,000 pounds over budget, the plans were revised, restricting the gate to around 60,000.

United played their last game at Clayton's Bank street ground on Jan 10th 1910 defeating Spurs 5-0. Shortly after United officially left the old ground a gale swept across Manchester and blew down the Bank Street stand causing damage to houses in the surrounding area. The new ground was opened on Feb 19th and named 'Old Trafford'.

Liverpool were the opponents that day and spoiled the Party by beating United 4-3 after United had led 2-0. They soon got used to the new ground though, and it wasn't until 21st October a year later that they suffered another defeat at home.

The price of admission for the games at Old Trafford at the time was, best reserved seats five shillings, and to stand on the terraces cost sixpence. ----
 
         

1911-12

    As League Champions United were once again invited to play in the Charity Shield. This time their opponents were Swindon town winners of the Southern League.

The game was played again at Stamford Bridge but only attracted a crowd of 8,000 which was a pity because the two teams served up 12 goals in a 8-4 win for United. 1911 began another bleak period for our Reds, Ernest Mangnall had created a great team, but in August of 1912 he surprisingly left the club and joined Manchester City as their new manager.

Earlier the same week he had turned down a 1,500 pound bid from City for United captain Charlie Roberts, after a emergency meeting of the board at Old Trafford it was decided that they could not change Mangnall's mind and he left with their blessing.

Eighteen months later City were top of div 1 and United were struggling next to bottom Mangnall's achievements at United cannot be underestimated, not only did he win two championships and a FA Cup win, he bought players of class and flair who gave United class and a reputation for attacking flowing football. he had also built the finest stadium in the land at Old Trafford to accommodate all this talent.

It would take United 40 years to recover from the loss of him. --
 
         

1913-14

    United were back in dire financial straits in 1913 following the building of Old Trafford.

It was a huge debt to the club and with the war years beckoning it was indeed dark days. The move of their manager to City was a sensation to the Old Trafford faithful, but it got worse.

Concerned with the debt the Board accepted a 1500 pound bid from Oldham Athletic for their captain and spiritual leader Charlie Roberts. This action caused shock waves throughout the City, the Mangnall move had marking the beginning of the end for United and the Roberts deal was merely another nail in the coffin. Players were being sold and the magnificent Manchester United team was finally broken.

War was declared on August 04 1914, the belief at the time was it would be a short affair and that the mainsteam life of the public would not be affected, therefore the League decided to continue on, initially their was no affect on the game, but as players enlisted in the services to join Lord Kitcheners mighty Army the ranks of players became depleted and it wasn't long before the attendances fell way off as the public lost its appetite for fun after being faced with the reality a World War I.

United ended the season avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth. ----
 
         

1915-16

    On good Friday 1915 United faced rivals Liverpool at Od Trafford.

United were struggling for survival while Liverpool were comfortable in the middle of the table, with no chance for either Championship or Relegation.

The game finished with a rather surprising victory to United 2-0, but it didn't end there.

The ref had reckoned it had been a peculiar game to say the least, and the press had commented on Liverpool's lackadaisical approach, they had missed a penalty and never looked like the true Liverpool. Within a few weeks more speculation with a handbill that was being passed around Liverpool and Manchester put out by a firm of Bookmakers who it seemed at taken an unusual amount of bets for a United 2-0 win.

Although it was not unusual in those days to bet on football games it was unusual to bet on the actual score. The Bookies had laid 7-1 against United winning 2-0. Before long the Football league conducted a formal inquiry into the game and a commission came up with the findings that the game had indeed been fixed by players from both teams. Three United players (Turnbull, West, and Whalley) and four Liverpool players (Sheldon, Miller, Fairfoul,Purcell) were charged with the offense and all were found guilty.

The ringleader was reported to be Sheldon, an ex United player playing for Liverpool. The players were suspended from the game for life, only West (of United) formally protested his innocence taking out a libel action suit against the FA, which he lost in court.

The League decided to lift the ban at the end of the war on all players except West who continued to protest his innocence, but he was never forgiven and the ban wasn't lifted on him until 1945 by which time he was a bitter and disillusioned man who had long since shunned all mention of Football. --

Interestingly enough the fix was done not to save United from relegation, but to put money in the players pockets. United survived the drop that year by exactly 2 points.

Football was officially suspended at the end of the 1914-15 season due to the war in Europe.

In the place of the Football league a variety of regional divisions were established. United joined forces with Everton, Liverpool, Man City and Stockport County to form a Lancashire League southern section, but in time the Country was split into a North and South sections, a guesting system was set up as more and more players were called up for active duty.

It was a dark period for United their magnificent ground at Old Trafford stood silent and empty and with most of their team away fighting the war in Europe the results got worse and worse.

Stockport, Oldham and Rochdale regularly beat them and in March 1916 they could only attract a crowd of 500 spectators to watch them lose by a single goal to Oldham and slump to the bottom of even their short league. ----
 
         

1919-20

    In 1919 League Football finally resumed after its four year disruption, United started the season looking nothing like the powerhouse they had been before the war, players had transferred out to other Clubs, Billy Meredith was arguing with the club over a transfer, West of course was still banned while Sandy Turnbull had been killed in action during the war.

John Robson was the new manager and he brought in a brood of young players he had been grooming, along with several modest signings such as Clarence Hilditich from Altringham, and Charlie Moore from Hednesford Town.

The team did not challenge for the league or Cup but finished a respectable 12th place. Crowds were coming back to the stadiums to watch the game again, the average gate at all 1st division matches in 1920 was 22,000 while United's average was around 30,000.

On December 27th 1920 70,504 fans showed up to watch United take on Aston Villa, for the record Villa beat the Reds 3-1 that day.

The Stadium that had been such a drain on their capital for so many years was now beginning to pay dividends, as it would for many years to come. --
 
         

1921-22

    Since the end of the war United had finished up in 12th and 13th position in the league and had no joy in the FA Cup.

The 1921 season started out in terrible fashion with just five points from 7 games. Their manager John Robson had become ill and it was agreed that he would step down to assistant manager to make way for John Chapman a Scot United hired away from Airdrieonians.

The deterioration continued under Chapman's watch with Man City thrashing them 4-1. United sank to the bottom of the league and stayed there the length of the season. They were relegated to the 2nd Div again after finishing with only 28 points.

Joe Spence was the only bright light for the team, he had joined United in 1919 from Scotswood and remained at Old Trafford until June 1933 whe he moved to Bradford City.

In all he made 510 appearances for the club, a record that stood for 40 years when it was bettered by Bill Foukes.
 
         

1923-24

    In 1923 life in the Second Div proved to be more difficult than United had anticipated. They were favorites to return to the top flight on their first attempt, instead they finished in 4th place while Notts County finished as Champions and were promoted.

During the season County had stayed on top and it was very surprising to them that while entertaining United at City Ground United soundly thrashed them 6-1. County had a goalie that was considered one of the best anywhere, Albert Iremonger who stood 6' 6" tall. But that day he spent the whole afternoon trying to keep the rampant reds away.

The man of the match was Frank Barson the United centre half. He had been signed by United from Aston Villa for 5,000 pounds and the promise of his own pub if United gained promotion within three years. They did, and the story goes that when Frank opened the door of his new pub he was swamped in the rush and decided then and there that running a pub was not the life for him.

The story of United's season this year was one of a team that had all the talent, but maybe not the will to win. --
 
         

1926-27

    On the 20th of September 1926 a FA investigating committe met at the Grand Hotel in Manchester to begin an inquiry into the affairs of Manchester United. The committe met again in Sheffield the following week and then met once more back in Manchester the first week of October.

What they were investigating to this day remains unknown but on the 7th of October they announced to an astonished footballing public that United manager John Chapman was to be suspended from Football for improper conduct in his position as secretary-manager of the Manchester United Football Club.

Nothing further was added and no explanation has ever been given to this day (anyone know anything on ths)?

In Chapmans place United appointed Clarence Hilditch as caretaker, Clarence was the starting right half for United. To this date he remains the only player-manager in the Clubs history.

Hilditch did a workmanlike job and managed to keep the Reds in the first div that year, but by the skin of their teeth.

Hilditch would be replaced 7 months later by an old Friend of United's! ----
 
         

1928

    The Old Trafford team began the 1928 season with a new Manager, Mr Herbert Bamlett.

His claim to fame had been to take a struggling Middlesbrough from the second to the first the previous year.

United fans remembered for doing something else. Bamlett had been an accomplished referee and had even referreed the 1915 FA Cup final. He was also the ref that had called off the 1909 Burnley - United Cup tie because of the snowstorm (if you recall United won the rearranged match and went on to lift the Cup.

Maybe United owed him a favor for that decision?

The new manager did not bring good times back to Old Trafford, as the team hovered just above the relegation zone all season, and on April 22nd United found themselves at the foot of the table.

It was the last game of the season and the log jam at the bottom was so tight that there was only 7 points separating the bottom club from the 4th placed team in the league.

United were 3rd(2nd?) from the bottom but all the three bottom clubs were level on points and games played, it was to come down to the last game of the season, and goal average. The visitors that day was Liverpool and not many of the United faithfull held out much hope with both Spurs and Middlesbrough having better goal average. Within 11 minutes United favorite Joe Spence had shot United into the league, Rawlings added two more before Liverpool replied and then Spence added another to make the halftime score 4-1.

As the teams came out for the second half Old Trafford was alive, the 30,000 strong crowd willing the team on, and it worked, Spence scored two more to complete his hat trick and send Liverpool home losers by 6 goals to one.

At the end of the game the players stayed on the field waiting nervously for the Spurs and Middlesbrough results, had they done enough to stay up? They had!!

Spurs and Middlesbrough went down and United had dodged a bullet - they stayed up based upon goal average. The 6th goal had bettered their average enough. ----
 
         

1929

    United lost 15 matches before March 1929 was over and again were looking contenders for the lower div, however thanks to a rousing season end they again managed to survive finishing the last 6 games with 5 wins and a tie.

Most of the explanation for this turn around could be found in the signing of Tom Reid from Liverpool. Reid, a Scot scored 14 goals in 17 appearances that season and went on to score 67 goals in just 101 games before joining Oldham five years later.

United were still not setting the league alight, it seemed as though they stayed in a never ending battle to stay out of the relegation zone.

It was to get Worse! ----
 
         

1930-31

    As if the previous season had not been bad enough the 1930-31 campaign had to go done as one of United's worst.

They started the season losing 4-0 to Villa, followed by a 3-0 loss to Middlesbrough, and then it went downhill, losses to Chelsea 6-2, Huddersfield 6-0, Newcastle 7-4 and United's usual devoted support started to wane.

By the time Newcastle were waxing them at Old Trafford the crowd numbered less than 11,000. There was much discontentment from the terraces and the normally placid Supporters club began to make waves. Handbills were passed out outside the ground on match days calling for the Club to heed a five point plan that they had presented to them. The supporters wanted a new manager, an improved scouting system, some new signings, five shareholders elected to the board, and money to be raised through a new share issue. The Club ignored the demands refusing to even meet with them arguing that the Supporters Club was an unofficial body not recognized by the Club and unrepresentative of the bulk of the supporters. Results continued to get worse and by the end of September they had lost all of the opening eight games and were sitting at the foot of the table. On October 4th the team went across town for the derby with Man City under a threat from the Supporters Club that if the board did not respond to them there would be a mass boycott of the home fixture against Arsenal scheduled for the 18th of October. The Club did not respond. Man City defeated them 4-1, and the following week West Ham hammered them 5-1. The Supporters Club called an emergency meeting to be held at Hulme Town Hall and as many as 3,000 were reported to have turned up. Mr Greenhough, secretary of the Supporters Club moved that the boycott against Arsenal should go ahead. Charlie Roberts, the former club captain spoke against the boycott and argued that the fans should be getting behind the team not boycotting them. Roberts was shouted down and the vote was taken to boycott the Arsenal game which was to be played the following day. The visit of the previous years Cup winning team was considered a huge game, and the newspapers had talked about a possible 50,000 crowd, 23,000 made the effort. United lost 2-1 and followed that with a 4-1 loss to Portsmouth. After these games the attendances slumped even lower and in fact the only time the crowd bettered 10,000 the rest of the year was the local home derby with Man City. in their final game 3,900 watched them play a 4-4 tie against Middlesbrough, they had lost 27 matches while only winning 7 and conceding a staggering 115 goals. At the end of the season the board finally acted and fired Herbert Bamlett, there was no immediate replacement for him and secretary Walter Crickmer and Louis Rocca took over the reins, but even the long serving secretary, and the man who had named the Club Manchester United could not help United 's slide and as 1931 ended the Club were once again almost bankrupt. It was at this point that a fair godmother came to the rescue, this time Mr james Gibson placed 2,000 pound at the clubs disposal and indicated he was ready to make further funds available if the board would reconstitute itself. Gibson was made President and anther financial crisis averted --
 
         

1932

    After the sacking of Herbert Bamlett United took their time finding a new manager, in July 1932 finally they settled upon Mr Scott Duncan, an ex player who had guested for the club during the 1st world war. Ducan was to be paid a salary of 800 pounds a year and after taking over at the helm he promised to infuse new blood into the team and to re-vamp the Youth system. Duncan had played with Newcastle, and Dumbarton and was also one of the few players who could boast playing for both Glasgow Celtic and Rangers. --  
         

1933-35

    On December 26th 1933 Grimsby Town defeated the United team 7-3, things just were not getting any better at Old Trafford. During the season United searched for the right blend, and by season end they had used 38 players. On May 4th 1934 Manchester United travelled to Millwall knowing that only a victory could save them from the humiliating drop into the 3 div north. The 'Manchester Evening News' had already wrote them off and called it "the most heartbreaking season in the history of Manchester United" They stood next to bottom on 32 points, while Millwall were just above them on 33 points. if United won the game Millwall would be relegated. Millwall started the game with a flourish and pined the Reds back in defence for long periods of time, then against the run of play United got a breakaway goal to make the score at halftime United 1- Millwall 0 Within two minutes of the restart Cape added another goal for United and the team began playing with confidence and won the game comfortably 2-0. United's travelling supporters numbered over 3,000 and upon returning to Manchester Central that night the team found many thousands more waiting to welcome their hero's home. United had survived once again at the last gasp! --  
         

1935-36

    The Thirties had not been good years at Old Trafford so far and the 1935-36 season started out just as bad as the previous year, on January 4th they were to lose to Bradford City, but in an amazing turnaround this loss was to be the last of the season, by Febuary they had begun climbing up the table. Manager Scott Duncan claimed it was a new plan he had installed that was the reason for the upsurge, he said they had been concentrating on getting a point away and two at home. Whatever the reason it was working and by mid March they had jumped to 4th place just three points behind the Leaders, in April they were in 2nd place and Old Trafford was sensing the prospect of promotion. The crucial game came on Wednesday 29 April when they travelled to nearby Bury, United had beaten them on the previous weekend at Old Trafford and a win was needed to stay in the Promotion race. As many as 20,000 fans made the short trip to see united win the game and keep their hopes alive going into the last week of the season. United did not disappoint their travelling fans and defeated Bury 3-2, after the game the fans invaded the field and carried the their hero's shoulder high to the dressing rooms. The following Saturday on a point was needed for United to be crowned 2nd Champions, it was duly achieved with a 1-1 draw. It had been United's home record that formed the backbone of their triumph. They had lost just two games at Old Trafford and drawn only three, scoring 55 goals. --  
         

1937

    United's return to the top flight was indeed short lived. They returned to div two the following season, 1937 however was to mark the year two players were signed who would dramatically change the Clubs future fortunes. Johnny Carey joined the Club from Dublin club St James gate for 250 pounds signed, he began life at old Trafford as an inside forward, but would soon convert to become one of the all time great fullbacks the World had ever seen. A month after Carey's debut Duncan signed another youngster, this time paying Bournemouth 3,000 pounds for Jack Rowley. Just two weeks after signing Rowley Duncan resigned, at the time United were nothing more than a good 2nd div side, however the next game after his resignation United hammered Chesterfield 7-1 and began a run that would again gain them promotion. NOTE: In my research I have not been able to find who took over from Scott Duncan, help anyone? --  
         

1938-44

    There was much apprehension on the terraces that Final Saturday before war broke out.everyone knew that the deadline given to Germany by the British government to pull out of Poland was only hours away and everybody had realized by then that Hitler would not retreat. United were away to Charlton on what was the third game of a new season. They had begun the season brightly winning 4-0 at Grimsby followed by a weekday tie at Chelsea, but Charlton beat them this day 2-0. The next morning at 11am war was declared on Germany.

The football league met two days later and made the decision to cancel the League season. It would be seven years before League soccer reappeared, although soccer was played in some form or fashion through the painfull duration. In place of League play a series of regional leagues were formed much like what had happened in the 1st world war, and a guesting system was introduced once more.

This made for strange bedfellows indeed with some small 3rd div sides often fielding famous international stars that just happened to be posted close by, while some major clubs scratched around for players.

In June 1940 United fielded an unusual lineup on one occasion with Man City's star Peter Doherty, Stanley Mathews featuring on the same forward line as a center forward who had been drafted out of a local pub team.

Throughout the 6 years of hostilities there were few prizes to be won, and even fewer spectators showed up to watch, United rarely attracted a crowd of over 4,000. For the record united won the Lancashire Cup in 1941, beating Burnley, and topped their regional League in 1941-42, there was little else to boast about other than a few spectacular scorelines.

New Brighton were hammered 13-1 in 1941 and Wrexham were beaten 10-3 the same year, while Burnley were defeated 9-0 in 1944.

On the night of Tuesday 11th March 1941 there was a roar around Old Trafford, but it was not coming from the terraces but rather from the drone of German planes overhead. The magnificent stadium sustained heavy bomb damage, and was in a dilapidated state, a shadow of its former self. The terraces were covered in weeds and grass and out on the famous turf a 6' high bush had sprouted.

Thanks to the kindness of Manchester City, United were given use of Maine Road, although they didn't return any favors slamming City 7-1 a month later. --
 
         

1945

   

(Actual News report as reported in the Manchester Evening News Monday 19th Feb 1945)

MATT BUSBY SIGNS AS UNITED MANAGER

Company Sergeant-Major Instructor Matt Busby, Liverpool right back and Scotland captain, today signed an agreement to become manager of Manchester United when he is demoblised.

Only a few years ago Busby (now aged 34) who has proved himself one of the great half backs of modern times, was the "forgotten man" of International Football.

His thousands of Manchester fans, remembering him as a stylish and attractive player when he turned out For Manchester City, unswervingly believed in his brilliance when Scotland's selectors seem to have neglected and forgotten him. And he justified their faith.

After one pre-war international cap in 1934 we was ignored until the 1941-42 season, since when he has appeared for Scotland in eight games, several times as skipper.

In these games he has been outstanding, and today he made a name in Scottish Football. "Busby has had a number of offers, but he approached us himself as he particularly wanted to come back to Manchester," Mr W. Crickmer Manchester United secretary explained today.

"He will build up the team and put it where it belongs-at the top." Busby who played with Alex James as a boy, left Manchester City for Liverpool in 1936 at a fee of 8,000 pounds, and has been released from his appointment as Liverpool's post-war coach.

Although nobody could have known it, the signing of Matt Busby was as momentous an event as any in the history of Manchester United. It ranked alongside the appointment of Ernest Mangnall, the signing of Billy Meredith and the timely intervention of JH Davies to save the Club from bankruptcy.

At the time Busby was still on Liverpool's books and still in the Army as an instructor at the Sandhurst Military Academy when he received a letter from Louis Rocca, the United scout, informing him of the managerial vacancy at Old Trafford. busby was keen to come to Old Trafford and quickly arranged a meeting with Crickmer the United secretary. The rest is History.

Busby's footballing career had ironically enough began at Man City where he begun as a 17 year old and played more than 200 games before moving to Liverpool.

He was only 34 when he took over at Old Trafford, but even so was in great demand, turning down Spurs, Liverpool, Reading and Ayre United to join the Reds.

There was no doubt that Manchester was where Busby's heart lay.

His arrival was to spark the fusion of two great forces. --

 
         

1946-47

    It was 1946 and the war was over, and League football kicked off again.

The crowds flocked to the games hungry for football again after the long lay-off. Crowds were averaging 50,000 at the large clubs and United were getting 40,000 every week although playing at Maine road due to Old Trafford still not having being rebuilt yet.

The United team that started the season was indeed impressive, with Jack Crompton in goal, Johnny Carey and John Aston in front of him, while Chilton, (who had been wounded in the war) Warner and Cockburn formed the halfback line.

Up front there was Jimmy Delaney a 4,000 pound buy from Celtic and Stan Pearson a rugged energetic and scheming player who partnered the great Jack Rowley. Charlie Mitten prowled the left wing.

It was an oustanding team and with Matt Busby, and now Jimmy Murphy at the helm, it was one that would transform United from the music-hall joke of pre-war football to giants of the post war years.

United began the 1946-47 Season in great form with 5 victories, including a 5-0 win over eventual Champions Liverpool.

United were leading contenders all year along with Liverpool, Stoke City, and Wolves, but Liverpool out lasted them and won the title with United finishing as runners up.

It had been a brave campaign by Busby's new team, who struck 95 goals and boasted fewer defeats than anyone else. Jack Rowley was leading scorer with 26 goals, followed by Stan Pearson with 19. Bert Whalley had been chosen regularly at half back, however in 1947 he decided to hang up his books and take a coaching job under Busby. This would prove to be highly significant in future years.

Bert Whalley was an instant success as a coach, guiding, developing, and motivating a group of youngsters at the Club who would find recognition of their own in the near future, this group of youngsters would be later known to the Football world as : "The Busby Babes".
 
         

1948

    The 'News of the World' Newspaper called the 1948 Cup final 'Wembley's finest'.

This was maybe a slight exaggeration, although there is no doubting it was one of the finest games ever played on the Wembley turf.

United had arrived at Wembley via a most difficult route. In the third round they defeated Aston villa 6-4 after being down a goal in 13 seconds, at half time they were leading 5-1 but Villa fought back to 5-4 before Stan Pearson scored a sixth for the Reds.

Then they drew current League Champions Liverpool at home, but because Old Trafford was still not ready to be used and Maine road was not available due to City being also drawn at home United had to find another ground to play the Cup tie at.

They plumped for Liverpool's rivals ground at Everton and it proved to be a lucky venue for the Reds as they won 3-0 at Goodison Park in front of a 74,000 crowd.

Next up was Charlton, but City had again been drawn at home and this time United chose to play at Leeds Road Huddersfield. Again the Reds won their 'home game' when they beat the London Club 2-0.

On to the quarter-finals and a game against Preston North End, Man City having a league fixture arranged for the same day the Reds had to find yet another place to play, this time it was Villa Park and another win for United 4-2 in front of yet another 74,000.

Derby County were to provide the opposition in the semi-final and it was slated for Hillsborough Sheffield. Stan Pearson hit a hat trick to add to the 4 goals he had already scored in the remarkable cup run, and United ran out winners 3-1.

United had faced 1st Div opposition in every round and had been watched by an astonishing 300,000 and the Wembley date would make it 400,000 aggregate attendance, which stands as a record to this day.

In the final United faced another Lancashire team in Blackpool who of course boasted the services of the great Stanley Matthews who was recognized all over the World as being the greatest player of the day.

Blackpool took the lead when Shimwell scored from the penalty spot after 12 minutes, but United stormed back and 27 minutes into the game they levelled the scores as Jack Rowley out sprinted the Blackpool goalkeeper to thunder a shot into the net.

Blackpool were proving to be more than worthy opponents and they struck again when Hugh Kelly slotted home a goal from a Matthews free kick.

Skipper Johnny Carey was having a storm of a game and his prompting and constant surges forward paid off when Rowley headed home a free kick to draw the two sides level again.

Ten minutes later the Cup was secured for United when Stan Pearson slammed home the winner. Pearson had scored 8 goals in six matches for the Reds, and he would always be remembered as the man who fired United on their way to another Cup Triumph. --
 
         

1949

    After 8 years absence from their home Manchester United returned to Old Trafford in 1949.

The bomb damage had been mostly repaired there was still some work to be done, but the gates opened for a crowd of 42,000 to pack inside and watch the Reds face Bolton Wanderers on a breezy summer day in August.

It was an exciting event with traffic backed up for miles which caused many to be late for the kickoff, but when the Stadium finally filled, the noise was reported to be deafening and the roared their approval as Charlie Mitten became the first player to score the a goal at Old Trafford for 8 years.

United ran out 3-0 winners. --
 
         

1950-51-52

    United fans were astonished when they read their morning newspapers during the summer of 1950. Charlie Mitten had deserted Old Trafford for an unknown Columbian team by the name of Santa Fe, after 113 consecutive appearances in the red shirt, Mitten was off to South America.

Mitten and his fellow professionals were earning a maximum 12 pounds a week, Santa Fe promised him a signing bonus of 2,500 pounds plus a salary of 2,500 pounds per year and a win bonus of 35 pounds a week, he was 29 years old.

Life in Bogat'a did not suit him however and he was soon on his way back to England, he was still officially a United player, but upon his return they made it apparent they would not continue with his services. He went on to sign with Fulham, later becoming manager of Mansfield before joining Newcastle as Manager.

On Saturday, 24th November 1951 United gave a debut to two youngsters who over the next few years would play a vital role in the club's fortunes. One of the players was named Jackie Blanchflower, the other Roger Byrne, they were selected to play against Liverpool at Anfield.

Tom Jackson of the Manchester Evening News wrote: "United's 'Babes' were cool and confident."

It would be the first time the word 'Babe' would be used in conjunction with United.

The introduction of Byrne and Blanchflower signalled the beginning of changes in the team, United went on to win the Championship in 1952 with the old guard forming the backbone of the team, however in the reserve and youth teams players were pushing the older established players for their spots every week Since the war United had never been out of the top four, so the title was long overdue when it finally arrived in 1952.

They moved on top in February and stayed there the rest of the season, even though in the end it took a win in the penultimate game of the season to secure the title.

Arsenal needed to beat United by 7 goals to snatch the title, it was never to happen as the Reds finished the season in rousing form hammering the Gunners 6-1. --
 
         

1953

    It was the day Stalin died, but more important to Man United fans it was the day United signed a young inside forward named Tommy Taylor.

It was said that 17 different clubs had all put offers in to Barnsley for their free scoring gem, but Matt Busby was the Manager who pulled off what was later to prove to be maybe his best signing. The highest fee United had ever spent (29,999 pounds) when asked why he had not made it 30,000 Busby replied that he had not wanted to burden
the young man with a 30,000 fee.

Taylor was the final piece in the Busby jigsaw and went from strength to strength with the club. 1953 also saw the debut of another United great to be when a 16 year old Duncan Edwards was told by Busby 'go get your boots son, you are playing for the first team against Cardiff City'. So on the 4th of April 1953 Edwards played against Cardiff City, he was the fifth teenager that year to wear the red of Man United.

1953 also marked the retirement of the great club servant Johnny Carey. Carey had appeared for United in no less than 9 different positions, and in seven different spots for his Country Ireland. He had played 344 games for the Reds and had captained them to FA cup and Championship glory.

His replacement was a cool young player by the name of Roger Byrne. Carey went on to become Manager of Blackburn Rovers, and later Everton, Leyton Orient, and Notts Forest. --
 
         

1954

    1954 saw United's Youth team repeat the previous years victory in the Youth Cup by defeating Wolves in a two legged affair 4-4 (home) and 1-0 at Molineux.

The two games were watched by over 40,000 fans, United went on to cature the Youth Cup five times in succession. Many of the Youth team were being introduced into the senior side, Duncan Edwards had become a regular, while players such as Jackie Blanchflower, Dennis Violett, Colin Webster, Albert Scanlon, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Billy Whelan, and Bill Foukes were all experiencing their first taste of League soccer.

Roger Byrne although only 25 years old was already the established captain of the 1st Division side Of the team that had beaten Wolves eight went on to claim regular spots in the starting lineup for the Reds, and three of these were to lose their lives in the Munich air crash. --
 
         

1954-55

    United's new young team were making noises that they were ready to challenge for England's highest honor, the League Championship.

Some football writers were predicting a great future for the exciting new team, but many of them quibbled that there was two much youth, and too little experience for the team to actually scale the top heights. At the start of the season it looked like the media had been correct, with only three wins in 8 games, but from then on the youngsters found their feet and only lost 4 more games the rest of the season. By Christmas it was all over!

United sat on top of the league and were never to look back, in the end they finished 11 points ahead of Blackpool. The youngsters had proved themselves, and the English football public were in awe of the youthfull Champions.

Young Denis Violett scored twenty goals in this his first season with the senior squad (he had made his debut in 53, but had to wait to 1955 to secure his spot in the team). Violett was born in Manchester and went on to score 20 plus goals a season for the next 6 seasons. When he left the Club in 1962 to join Stoke City he had scored 178 goals in 291 appearances (he went on to score 59 more at Stoke before leaving for the USA).

The championship was secured on April 7th when 62,277 fans watched the Red Devils beat Blackpool 2-1 at Old Trafford. In a period of 10 years United had only been out of the top 4 spots twice, and the latest Championship had been won by a team whose average age was just 22. --
 
         

1955-56

    The Championship in 1955 had entitled United to play in a new competition named the European Cup. The competition had been dreamed up by the French Newspaper 'L'Equipe'.

Chelsea had been invited the previous year but at the prompting of the Football League they had turned the chance down. United also heard serious argument from the football powers, but Manager Matt Busby stood defiant, even risking sanctions to accept the offer and to pave the way into Europe for the English.

Busby as always was on the cutting edge of the game, he believed his young side were a match for the best in Europe, and was determined to prove his point. The Football league eventually backed down to him and United were in Europe!

At this time Old Trafford did not have floodlights, and it was our friends from across the City who once again came to our rescue. All United's home games in the European cup were to played at Maine road, the home of Manchester City.

In the first tie they were drawn against Belgian Champions Anderlecht, who they disposed of 10-0. The next game they were drawn against the German team Borussia Dortmund, who they also disposed of to go on to meet the Spanish Champs Bilbao.

Playing in Spain in the first leg the team slumped to its first defeat in the competition losing 5-2. On the return over 70,000 fans packed into Maine Road to watch them make a stunning comeback and defeat Bilbao 3-0 on goals from Taylors and Violett (2).

By this time the accolades were pouring in. Jeff Mermans, the Anderlecht captain, called them 'Worldbeaters'. The Daily Herald's George Follows described the Bilbao game as "the greatest football match he had ever seen, the greatest football crowd he had ever heard, and the greatest centre forward display he had ever seen".

Everyone agreed it had been Tommy Taylors Night! The team had also been on a big bonus to win the tie, a whopping 3 pounds! United were through to the semi-final, and the Mighty Real Madrid. The Spanish team boasted World class stars like Alfredo di Stefano, Raymond Kopa, Puskas, Gento and the Russian keeper Yashin.

On the first leg the Youth of the United team showed and Madrid tore them apart before 125,000 Fans in Bernabeau Stadium 3-1. The Old Trafford floodlights had been installed in time for the second leg and the game was played before 65,000, but it was not to be United's day and they settled for a 2-2 draw and elimination from the competition. Interestingly, United's late equaliser came from a young forward named Bobby Charlton.

In addition to the good European Cup run, things had been going well on the domestic front with United through to Wembley to face Aston Villa, having already clinched the League Championship by finishing 8 points ahead of Spurs. The team were odds on favourites to clinch the Double with a win against Villa, but with just six minutes gone Villa's flying winger Peter Mcparland recklessly charged United keeper Ray Wood, who had possession of the ball and was preparing to kick upfield. It was a particularity nasty foul, and it has been debated many times over the years why the ref allowed McParland to remain on the field. Woods cheekbone and been shattered, and the United team were down to 10 men (no subs allowed), so Jackie Blanchfower donned the goalie shirt for the rest of the second half which finished 0-0.

Woods made a brave effort to return to the goal in the second half, but the weakened United team succumbed to two goals from McParland and their dream of League and Cup double had been extinguished.
 
         

1957

   

Youth Cup programme of April 1957: (kindly scanned by Pete Hargreaves )

Youth Cup programme of April 1957   Picture of the team 1957

 
         

1958

   

On Monday February the young United team travelled to Belgrade to play Yugoslav champions Red Star in the second leg of the European Cup quarter finals, United had beaten them at home 2-1 and were heavily favored to win the second leg.

The game took place on Wednesday 5th Feb, and United started out in great style with Dennis Violett scoring within 90 seconds of the kickoff giving the Busby Babes a 1-0 lead, a Bobby Charlton thunderbolt made it 2-0, and the young Charlton blasted through again two minutes later to make it 3-0 and a 5-1 overall lead. The second half was a totally different affair, with United keeper Harry Gregg playing out of his mind to stop Red Star, but the Yugoslav's manage to level the score at 3-3 and United clung grimly to the overall one goal, but survive they did and advanced through to the semi-final on the overall score of 5-4.

The jubilant United team were in great spirits as they boarded the Elizabethan airliner for the return journey back to Manchester, according to many of the accompanying journalists they had played the best football of their young careerers in Belgrade and were being saluted back home as 'England's young Lions' The flight stopped off in Munich for refueling and the weather was deteriorating fast, twice their twin engined BEA aircraft attempted to take off, but both times had to return to the concourse.

A little after 3pm another attempt was made at takeoff, but the usual power that was needed to lift the giant aircraft into the skies was missing and Flight 'Zulu Uniform 609' crashed in the snow and slush 60 yards beyond the end of the runway, crossing a bridge before its port wing smashed into a house. The starboard side hit a wooden hut and the cockpit hit a tree while the wing and part of the tail were torn off.

Twenty one lay dead in the immediate aftermath, two others would later add to that toll. Eight of United's bright young stars were among the victims.

Roger Byrne, Tommy Taylor, Duncan Edwards, Eddie Coleman, Mark Jones, Billy Whelan, Geoff Bent, David Pegg, along with United Coach and former player Bert Whalley trainer Tom Curry, and long serving United secretary Walter Crickmer. Duncan Edwards had been dragged from the wreckage alive, but died in hospital two weeks later. Manager Matt Busby hovered between life and death, but eventually pulled through,but the bulk of his great side had been destroyed in a matter of moments!

Eight journalists also perished in the disaster including former Manchester City goalkeeper great Frank Swift

Players Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower had survived the crash but never played football again. A few months later when United returned to Wembley, only two players were in the side from the previous seasons final.

Munich, 6th February 1958 was a day that saw a great team die, but a great Club go on!

United had been scheduled to play Sheffield Wednesday in the 5th round of the FA cup on Saturday 15th February, but in the aftermath of Munich the game was postponed to give the club some time to piece together a squad. Assistant Manager Jimmy Murphy assumed control of the club with Matt Busby still very ill in hospital and his immediate task was to find enough players to represent the club, as before United turned to their youth and brought up several young players to the senior squad. Murphy dipped into the transfer market to to sign Ernie Taylor a 33 year old forward from Blackpool with lots of experience and Stan Crowther an England u-23 from Aston Villa. Crowther was cup tied having played for Villa in the FA Cup that year, but the FA waived the cup tie rule making him the only player who played for two teams in the FA Cup the same year.

On February 19th 1958 the United team returned to Old Trafford, a sentimental the crowd awaited them who didn't know whether to cheer or cry - most did both!

60,000 plus Watched through tearful eyes as the patched up United team ran out into the glare of the Old Trafford lights, the cover of the match program that night read 'United will go on" Inside the program blank spaces had been left in place of players names, and a silence fell over the huge crowd as the announcer named the team. The Sheffield Wednesday team were in a no win situation that night, it seemed the whole world was willing United to win, and win they did 3-0, with goals from youth team players Shay Brennan, (2) and Alex Dawson. The team that night was: Gregg, Foukes,Greaves,Goodwin,Cope,Crowther,Webster,Taylor,Dawson,Pearson, Brennan.

Playing for Wednesday that night was Albert Quixall who would shortly sign for United for the then British record of 45,000 pounds.

After the heroic win against Wednesday United went on to defeat West Brom and Fulham to reach Wembley for the second successive year. Considering everything that had happened to the club that year this surely has to be one the greatest triumphs in the Club's history!

When Busby heard that United were again Wembley bound he sent a message from his hospital bed that he would be at Wembley with them.

The Whole of the Football World (apart from the Town of Bolton) were behind the Red Devils that day as they thought bravely against the excellent Bolton team, Harry Gregg who had survived Munich leaped for a high ball on his goal line, when he came down he found Nat Lofthouse the Bolton centre forward waiting to bustle both him and the ball into the back of the net. United defenders looked on in disbelief as the Ref pointed to the middle, it was to go down as one of the most controversial goals of all time FA Cup final play. But there was no fairy tale end to United's season that year, and Bolton overall had deserved their win, with big man Harry Gregg telling the press afterwards that it had been a fair challenge.

Years later Nat Lofthouse confessed that it had been a foul, and had haunted him the rest of his Football life.

The following day, thousands of United fans lined the streets to welcome back home United, it had been an emotional victory at least!

 
         

1959

    1959 saw United trying to rebuild from their disaster, Albert Quixall had arrived amid a blaze of publicity, Dennis Violett and Albert Scanlon had recovered from their Munich injuries and Bobby Charlton was fastly maturing into an outstanding forward. Harry Gregg had nailed down the goalie job Ernie Taylor and Stan Crowther had moved elsewhere. The club should have been struggling, their Youth system heavily raided before its time, no one gave much chance of challenging for major honors, and by mid November they had already lost eight games. But the fighting spirit of the Club again came through, they only lost three more league games that season, scored a total of 108 goals and finished 2nd to a Stan Cullis managed Wolves team by 6 points.

Bobby Charlton had emerged as a prolific goalscorer, and led the club with 29 goals that year.

In the wake of the Munich disaster few had given much hope of 1st division survival for the Club, yet they had emerged from the doom and had been Cup finalists in 58 and runners up in 59.
 
         

1960-61

   

The beginning of the 60s saw United looking more and more into the transfer market, with their Youth system several years away from producing major players capable of challenging at the top they opened the check book.

First came Maurice Setters 30,000 pound transfer from West Brom, Setters was England under 23 captain and the target for many clubs, with the midlands club agreeing terms first with Everton, and then with Man City but both transfers were spurned by the player himself. However when United showed interest Setters didn't waste a minute to agree to join them, it is said that he didn't even discuss wages prior to signing the contract that brought him to Old Trafford. Setters would help put steel back into a defense that was seemed to be sagging badly.

Next came Noel Cantwell from West Ham, a rugged but stylish player who played several positions for United but settled at the fullback position. He had played for Ireland first in 1953, and went on to play a total of 36 games for his country. he was also made Club captain of the United team, Cantwell had been signed for 30,000 pounds.

Matt Busby had been tracking David Herd all his life, Matt had played alongside David's father Alec at Manchester City in the 30s, and United had even considered signing Herd in 51 when he played at nearby Stockport County but they hesitated and Arsenal signed the young Scot. Realizing his mistake, Busby talked to the Highbury club for two years about signing Herd and had all but given up hope when he decided to put in a casual call to them to find out the latest position and was told 'you can have him for 38,000 pounds, Matt caught the next train to London and snapped up the player.

It was later revealed that Herd then 27 years of age had turned down the London clubs new contract offer and had told them he wanted to move to Manchester United.

 
         

1962-63

   

United were beginning to build back into a great side, but Busby knew there was still some pieces of the jigsaw yet to be put into place, he had long been an admirer of a young Scot he had first seen at Huddersfield Town, and Later at Manchester City, a prolific goalscorer and magician on the ball, in 1962 this player suddenly came available and Busby wasted no time in securing the services of what was to become his greatest signing, the great Denis Law.

Law had played for Bill Shankly at Huddersfield, and Busby had tried to prise him away but had gotten no joy from his pal Shanks, Manchester City moved in with a record fee of 56,000 pounds and took Law to Maine road. The young Scot only stayed for one year, and City decided that a healthy profit could be made by selling him to Torino in Italy, Law had become the first player to smash the 100,000 pound barrier! But Italy did not suit Law at all, and he detested the Italians reluctance to allow him to play for his beloved Scotland, Busby had kept in touch with the situation, and swooped in with a 115,000 pound offer to bring Denis back to Manchester.

Law brought an excitement and artistry to the club that had not been seen since the days of the Busby Babes, the Stretford End crowned him their King. He went on to score 236 goals in almost 400 appearances in his 10 years at the club, before he went back across the City to Maine road. His last game prior to his retirement ironically turned out to be against United, and of course Denis scored. A common tale told by City fans is that his goal was the one that sent United into the 2nd Div, but in actual fact this was not the case.

During his time at United Denis was often controversial, fiery and razor sharp on the field, he had his run ins with both referee's and management, one big story broke in 64 was that he had demanded a increase in wages (it turned out to be a request for 10 pounds more per week) and if he didn't get his demands he would leave the club. Law was on vacation in his native Scotland, having just finished a round of golf he was walking to the clubhouse when he was met by an excited young caddy, he was told that Busby had put him on the transfer list. Denis headed for Manchester and a meeting with the Boss, when he walked into Matt's office he was handed a piece of paper upon which Busby had written out an apology on behalf of Law to the club. Denis had to walk out into the hordes of reporters and publicly apologize to everyone at the Club, what was not told at the time was that Matt did indeed give him his raise in salary!

Joining Denis at the club was another Scot signed from Celtic, Pat Crerend the stylish midfield craftsman, he puzzle was ever so close to being finished.

United lingered in the bottom half of the table all year, but salvaged everything with a Wembley FA Cup win over Leicester City, they beat the highly regarded Leicester team 3-1 with goals from Herd(2) and Law. The team were beginning to jell, and even though they finished 19th there was a buzz in the air around Old Trafford, Busby had again rebuilt a team ready to challenge the best!

The Cup win of 1963 was not the only significant event that year, on Saturday 14th September United fielded two 17 years in a 1-0 home win against West Brom, between them the youngsters would go on to play over 800 games for United, and there is many a claim that one of them is maybe the best player to ever play for the Old Trafford club.

George Best had arrived at Old Trafford from his Belfast home at the tender age of 15, but almost immediately returned home suffering from homesickness, Matt Busby followed the young man to Belfast and persuaded him to return to Manchester.

Jimmy Murphy had found Best during a scouting trip to Northern Ireland, he had called by Best's home and spoke to his Mother who informed Murphy that George was down the street playing, the United #2 man went to an area were several boys were playing a pickup game in the street, it didn't take long to recognize Best, the signs were all there, quick, skillfull and had an obvious flare for the game. Murphy wasted no time and 4 days later George was on a boat headed for Manchester.

Best had everything, he was fast skillful and dangerous, he could delight and tantalize and sometimes frustrate the fans, but he always entertained them. Much has been written about Best's career, many say that he played too short a time and finished playing when he should have been in his prime, however a little known fact was that George played 466 times for the Reds, scoring 178 goals, and is the 4th highest for total games in United's history Best broke into 1st Division football about the same time the Beatles were making headlines, it was the swinging sixties and Georgie was to be a big part of it, more importantly he was the final piece in Matt's puzzle, his great team of the 60s was about to take the Football world by storm!

 
         

1964

    Their Cup win of 1963 had afforded the Reds a return to European competition.

The reds started in out with a win over Willem II of Holland beating them 6-1 at Old Trafford and drawing 1-1 in Holland. They then were drawn against the Cup holders Spurs. After losing at White Hart Lane 2-0 they roared through the second leg 4-1. A black mark on the game was Spurs great Dave Mackay breaking his leg 8 minutes into the game.

The next round saw them paired with the Portuguese Cup winners Sporting Club Lisbon, with Denis Law scoring a hat trick, United mauled the Lisbon team 4-1 in the first leg and were odds on favorites to go through to the semi-final. The Sporting Club had other idea's though and in the return leg they ran United into the ground and were 5 goals up within the first 60 minutes. United never recovered and went out of the Cup.

Busby was livid, he ranted and raved in the dressing room calling the players a complete disgrace, threatening to drop players and even fine them. It had been United's most humiliating experience in Europe.
 
         

1965

   

With a FA Cup semi-final and a runners up place the season before the 1965 version of United were determined to go one better and bring the Championship to Old Trafford for the first time in 8 years. They started the season well with 8 consecutive victories including a 7-0 thrashing of Aston Villa, on New Years Day United were in third spot with Leeds and Chelsea ahead of them.

Chelsea fell victim to a 4-0 hiding from the Reds and soon dropped off the pace leaving Leeds the only serious competition. Leeds had beaten United in the FA Cup semi-final game and were headed to Wembley to meet Liverpool, their remaining league game was at Birmingham City, United entertained Arsenal at old Trafford, they were one point behind Leeds but had one more game remaining which was away to Aston Villa. Denis Law headed the scoal scoring list that year but was had sustained a gash in his leg that required 7 stitches in the previous game, he was listed as out for the game.

Law tells the story this way: 'I was walking out of the Old Trafford dressing room and headed home, when the Boss stopped me and asked where I was going, I replied that I was going home, Matt replied that they had a game that night and no way could I go home, I showed Matt the stitches in my leg, and he responded by calling for a bandage to protect it. I played that night and scored two goals, but I could hardly walk, but Matt wanted me, he said it was for "presence".

So Denis did play that night and United won comfortably by 3 goals to one, and then the wait began, the players milled around the sidelines waiting for the score from Birmingham, at 9:10pm the score came through Leeds 3 Birmingham City 3, the crowd responded bu invading the field and police stood shoulder to shoulder with them all facing Matt Busby's seat in the main stand, Matt stood before his adoring audience and anounced 'Manchester United are Champions again' he had waited eight years to make that anouncement!

Busby had built yet another great team, with two Irish international fullbacks in Brennan and Dunne, and style and passing ability of Crerend, the experience and resolution of Bill Foukes, and the magic of Best, Law , and Charlton up front he had again scaled the heights of the English league.

 
         

1966-67

   

United were back in Europe!

After an absense of nine years the Reds were once again prowling the European shores, the campaign started out with a trip to Helsinki, where they scraped a narrow win but the return game at Old Trafford they romped home 6-0, next came East German Champs Vorwaerts who they defeated 2-0 in East Berlin and 3-1 at Old Trafford. The quarter-final was against the Portuguese Champions the Mighty Benfica. -- 64,000 packed inside Old Trafford that night and were stunned on the half hour by a headed goal from Augusto, by halftime however the Reds were in control of the game as goals from Law and Herd put them in the lead 2-1. After the interval Bill Foukes scored a rare goal from a Noel Cantwell cross and the huge crowd was celebrating in anticipation of a United victory. With the Reds backpedaling Eusebio struck late in the game to make it 3-2, and the game ended with Eusebio going close to scoring another.

Few believed that the slim one goal lead would hold up in Lisbon, 90,000 fans packed the 'Stadium of Light' to cheer on Benfica, the game was held up several minutes for Eusebio to collect his European Footballer of the year award.

It was to be the 19 year old George Best who proved to be the footballer of the night though, he weaved his magic through the Benfica defense and had two goals himself before halftime, the massive crowd watched in silence as John Connelly added a third and Crerand a fourth, and Bobby Charlton a fifth, Benfica's only consolation that night was an own goal by Shay Brennan, the United team returned to headlines in the morning newspapers that read "El Beatle Best'

The semi-final was a different story with United going down 2-0 in Yugoslavia to Partizan Belgrade and only managing a 1-0 win at home they were again to fall short of that ultimate goal.

Europe had changed much since their first trip nine years ago, then it was the brilliance of open attacking soccer by the likes of Real Madrid, had been replaced by iron tight defense systems, sadly that trend has continued to the present day game.

While out of Europe the homefront looked very good and United dominated with their attacking flowing football, these were the Glory days of Best, Law, Charlton and United thrilled crowds everywhere and arrived at Upton Park on the 7th of may 1966 poised to take the Championship. And the way they did it was a credit to the game in general, west Ham were a good side in their own right with England stars such as Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst and the legendary England Captain Bobby Moore. But on the day it was all United, who turned on a display of Football artistry! within ten minutes they were up by three goals, and added three more to take the title in style winning 6-1

The Sunday Express reported that the first 30 minutes of the game were the best display of football by any team since the war.

Matt Busby told one Newspaper....'My Greatest Hour".

 
         

1967-68

   

European Cup Final May 29th

Armed with their seventh League Championship, Matt Busby knew that time was running out in his quest for European glory. Francis Burns came into the side and shared full-back duties with Tony Dunne, whilst Denis Law's injury and suspension-riddled season gave opportunities for the young Brian Kidd. Former skipper Noel Cantwell departed to Coventry City.

An opening day defeat at Everton 1-3 heralded an eleven-match unbeaten run, which included at 2-1 win at neighbours Manchester City. By the turn of the year the Reds held a five point lead, and an FA Cup 3rd Round replay exit at Tottenham was not seen as a handicap either.

The European Cup campaign began with a four goal romp against Hibernians (Malta), and following a dull goalless draw away they repeated the exercise in Yugoslavia to frustrate Sarajevo in the next Round. Strikes from John Aston and George Best secured a 2-1 win at Old Trafford and a Quarter-Final against the Poles of Gornik Zabrze.

Domestically, things began to go awry, with five defeats in eight games around February and March. A key result was the 1-3 home loss to local enemies City, and the Manchester sides were head-to-head as the season reached its climax. A 6-0 thrashing of Newcastle United came after a bizarre 3-6 reverse at West Brom and both teams had 56 points with one game left. United tragically slumped 1-2 at home to Sunderland, whilst City snatched their crown, winning 4-3 at Newcastle. George Best had notched 28 League goals in 41 games, the leading scorer of the season, and later was named European Footballer of the Year. United's average home League attendance was a staggering 57,759, a new Football League record.

Back in Europe, Gornik conceded an own-goal by Florenski in Manchester, and Kidd flicked in a Jimmy Ryan shot to give a handy cushion for the return. A snow-covered pitch in Poland required a disciplined performance, and a Lubanski goal was not enough to save the tie. Old rivals Real Madrid provided the opposition in the Semi-Finals, with Denis Law's season ended with a knee injury requiring surgery. Brian Kidd took his place, but a single goal from Best was a slender advantage to take to the Bernabeu Stadium. Real started the second leg in magical form, with Pirri and Gento soon wiping out the deficit. Zoco sliced Dunne's cross into his own goal, but Amancio beat Stepney to make the score 3-1 at half-time. Busby's interval pep-talk breathed hope into the United players, and David Sadler glanced home a Foulkes header to level the aggregate scores. In a dramatic finale the unlikely figure of Bill Foulkes strode forward to knock in a Best cross to take the Reds into a Wembley Final on May 29th.

Benfica of Portugal carried the threat of the mighty Eusebio, and had won the trophy in 1961 and 1962. They began with clear instructions to mark the mercurial Best tightly, but Bobby Charlton headed a Dunne cross high into the net early in the second half. John Aston was running rampant on the left flank, but the Red hordes were shocked in the 80th minute when Graca thumped in a Torres header, and after a crucial save by Stepney when Eusebio broke clear of Nobby Stiles the game lurched into extra time. New efforts were summoned from tired legs, and within a minute George Best burst past Cruz and rounded keeper Henrique to score a superb goal. Next Brian Kidd's header from a Charlton corner was parried upwards but the local lad nodded in the rebound to make history on his 19th Birthday. To round off a magical first period of extra time Charlton flicked in Kidd's cross to seal a 4-1 victory. United were Champions of Europe, and Matt Busby was knighted for his services to Sport. The triumphant side at Wembley was: Stepney, Brennan, Dunne, Crerand, Foulkes, Stiles, Best, Kidd, Charlton, Sadler, Aston.

 
         

1968-69

   

World Club Championship

With the holy grail claimed at last, United began the season erratically, losing 0-4 at home to Chelsea and falling 4-5 at Sheffield Wednesday. Winger Willie Morgan had arrived from Burnley for £100,000 as David Herd left to join Stoke City. Busby shuffled his squad to little effect. 10 League defeats by February persuaded him it was time to stand down at the end of the season, and though Queens Park Rangers were thumped 8-1 in April, a finish in 11th place suggested more problems ahead. George Best with 19 goals and Denis Law with 14 were leading marksmen, but only 57 were scored compared to 89 the previous season.

The FA Cup began with victories over Exeter City and Watford, then a Law treble highlighted a 6-2 win against Birmingham City in a replay. But Everton's Joe Royle scored the only goal of an Old Trafford Quarter-Final watched by 63,464.

A dubious honour of Euro success was facing Estudiantes of Argentina in the World Club Championship. A history of violence between Northern and Southern Hemisphere sides was continued in Buenos Aires, with Nobby Stiles sent off farcically amidst intimidatory tactics, and a goal from Conigliario in the 28th minute the only creative moment. Back in England for the return, Veron stole in to increase the lead in 5 minutes, and Denis Law had to go off with a badly cut leg. Best was dismissed along with his tormentor Medina, and though Willie Morgan netted to earn a 1-1 draw on the night, the Argentinians took the silverware in an unpleasant contest. The European title defence started with a ten-goal romp over two games at the expense of Waterford of the Republic of Ireland, Law claiming 7 of them. Belgians Anderlecht subsided 3-0 in Manchester, and a crucial Carlo Sartori goal in Brussels enabled the Reds to progress on a 4-3 aggregate. Best, in impish form, scored twice in a 3-0 home win against Rapid Vienna, and a 0-0 stalemate in Austria provided a Semi-Final against the might of AC Milan. In Italy the hostile San Siro Stadium saw the home side dominate, goals from Sormani and Hamrin made the return a tough challenge. At Old Trafford tight defending held United at bay until the 70th minute, when Charlton pulled a goal back, their 100th goal in European football. When Crerand's chip was ruled out after it had appeared to cross the line both players and fans felt cheated, and goalkeeper Cudicini was struck by a missile thrown from the Stretford End. The Milanese held out for a 2-1 aggregate win and the Reds were out of the European Cup. It was to be some time before continental opposition was to grace Old Trafford again.

 
         

1969-70

   

Wilf McGuinness

Following Sir Matt was always going to be a tough act, and it was decided that former Busby Babe Wilf McGuinness was to be given the job, being given the title Head Coach whilst Busby became General Manager after 24 years at the helm.

Three early defeats, including a 1-4 reverse at home to Southampton, was not a good start. Ian Ure, the Arsenal Centre-Half was bought for £80,000 to replace Bill Foulkes, and John Fitzpatrick took over from Shay Brennan at Right-Back. Injury reduced Denis Law's season to 10 outings, and McGuinness rang the changes to seek the right blend, but the standard of young player at the club had fallen. An 8 game unbeaten run was put together, including a 5-2 win against West Ham United, but the side was past its peak, and a disastrous 0-4 loss at Manchester City, plus a 1-5 hiding at Newcastle left the fans worried. In April United trounced West Bromwich Albion 7-0 but a final position of 8th was the best that they could manage. George Best top scored again with 15 goals, but the tally of 61 conceded revealed a shaky and unsettled defence. Bill Foulkes retired after 17 years service and 682 games, breaking Joe Spences first team appearance record of 510 that had stood since 1933.

The Reds entered the League Cup after an absence of 3 seasons, and routine successes against Middlesbrough and Wrexham put them into the 4th Round. Burnley were eliminated 1-0 in a replay via a Best goal. Derby were held 0-0 at the Baseball Ground, and Brian Kidd broke the deadlock at Old Trafford to set up a Manchester 'Derby' in the Semi-Finals. At Maine Road Charlton cancelled out Colin Bell's early goal only for Francis Lee to convert a late penalty, with Best knocking the ball out of Referee Taylors hands after the final whistle and earning a one month suspension. In the 2nd Leg, Law and Paul Edwards netted for the home side, but Bowyer and Summerbee replied for City, the latter cashing in on Stepneys error when parrying a Lee indirect free-kick instead of allowing it to pass him. The Blues went on to Wembley glory to follow their title success, both at Uniteds expense.

The FA Cup trail began at Ipswich with an own goal deciding the outcome, and next Man City were roundly beaten 3-0 at Old Trafford with goals from Kidd 2 and Morgan, to partly atone for the League Cup disappointment. George Best returned for his ban to score an incredible 6 times at Northampton in Round 5 in an 8-2 slaughter. Middlesbrough were beaten 2-1 after a 1-1 draw on Teesside, and McGuinness has his second Semi-Final of the season. Leeds United fought out two spiteful stalemates at Hillsborough and Villa Park, before Billy Bremner scored after 8 minutes of the third meeting at Burnden Park. Again we had faltered one step from the Twin Towers. At the end of the season a clearout began, 8 were released and Shay Brennan was given a free transfer.

 
         

1970-71

   

Season of Turmoil

A season of turmoil began with United failing to score in their opening three games, one a calamitous 0-4 hammering at Arsenal, with Alex Stepney going off injured. For the next fixture at Burnley Jimmy Rimmer took his place in goal and held it for the next 20 matches. John Fitzpatrick displaced Pat Crerand in midfield and Paul Edwards came in at Right-Back, David Sadler partnering Ian Ure at the heart of the defence. But results failed to improve, an ageing team slumped 0-4 at Ipswich in September, and won just 4 of the first 16 matches, ironically one being a 2-0 win against reigning Champions Everton.

Meanwhile, the League Cup provided a welcome diversion. The Reds eliminated Aldershot 3-1, Portsmouth 1-0 and Chelsea 2-1, George Best scoring a wonderful solo effort. A 4-2 success over Crystal Palace earned them a Semi-Final against Third Division Aston Villa. Brian Kidd scored to cancel out Andy Lochhead's opener at Old Trafford, but the game ended 1-1. In the 2nd Leg at Villa Park Kidd netted again but Villa goals from Lochhead and McMahon handed out a humiliating exit.

By December crisis point was reached. Home defeats by Manchester City (1-4), Arsenal (1-3) and finally a crazy 4-4 draw at Derby on Boxing Day signalled the end of Wilf McGuinness's reign. The Board demoted him to Reserve Team Coach and Busby was asked to take over the reigns temporarily, amidst rumours of senior players falling out with the deposed boss. Sir Matt eased back into the side Stepney, Crerand and Morgan, and the old magic was rekindled. A five match unbeaten run took them away from the foot of the table, and United finished 8th once again, with Southampton being thrashed 5-1 in April, 4 goals coming from Alan Gowling. In the final game the Reds went to Manchester City and won 4-3 to salute Busby's last game in charge. Best again was leading scorer with 18, despite some unauthorised absences during the campaign. Nobby Stiles was sold to Middlesbrough for £20,000, injuries having taken their toll.

The FA Cup run began and ended with Middlesbrough in Round 3, a goalless draw at Old Trafford preceding a 1-2 defeat on a frozen pitch in the replay.

 
         

1971-72

   

Frank O'Farrell

Speculation over the successor to Sir Matt included Brian Clough and Dave Sexton, but United finally plumped for Frank O'Farrell, who had guided Leicester City to promotion to Division 1, and had also took them to the FA Cup Final in 1969. Tommy O'Neil took over at Right-Back, Alan Gowling and Willie Morgan were converted to Midfield, and Steve James replaced Ian Ure at Centre-Half. Due to crowd trouble the previous season the club were ordered to play their first two home fixtures away from Old Trafford.

The Reds got off to a storming start, losing just one of the first 14 games. Both Arsenal and West Brom were beaten 3-1 at neutral venues, and by October early frontrunners Sheffield United were toppled 2-0 and United were top of the table. Two George Best trebles accounted for West Ham (4-2) and Southampton (5-2) and by Christmas the lead was 5 points.

In the League Cup Ipswich succumbed 3-1, and a Charlton goal sunk Burnley in a replay. In Round 4 Stoke City drew 1-1 at Old Trafford, and after a 0-0 draw at the Victoria Ground Stoke won the toss for venue for the third meeting. The Potteries side put the Reds out 2-1 on their way to winning the trophy.

After 3 draws in December, 7 successive defeats followed, including a humiliating 1-5 loss at Leeds United. O'Farrell had to act fast, and bought classy defender Martin Buchan from Aberdeen for £120,000. Next the exciting winger Ian Storey-Moore arrived from Nottingham Forest for £200,000. Moore contributed 5 goals in 11 games as his new team lost just 4 of the next 12, caning Crystal Palace 4-0 in March. For the third season in a row United finished in 8th place, ten points adrift of Champions Derby County. Best scored 18 goals, 14 coming in the first 19 games. Another Irishman, Sammy McIlroy, had scored on his debut aged 17 against Manchester City and was a big prospect for the future.

The FA Cup run began with Southampton going down 4-1 in a replay, and two Gowling goals accounting for Preston North End at Deepdale. Middlesborough were ousted 3-0 at Ayresome Park, Stoke City again awaited in the Quarter-Finals. In a repeat of the League Cup encounter they drew 1-1 in Manchester, and were 2-1 winners in the replay.

Pat Crerand retired and joined the coaching staff. Another European Cup hero John Aston joined Luton Town, and Ian Ure departed to St Mirren. Alan Gowling (Huddersfield) and Francis Burns (Southampton) also moved on at the end of the season.

 
         

1972-73

   

Tommy Docherty was appointed

Early season optimism soon faded, with 4 draws and 5 defeats in the opening 9 games. To boost the attack Wyn Davies came from Manchester City for £60,000 and Ted MacDougall, a prolific striker for Bournemouth, arrived for a fee of £200,000. Derby County were beaten 3-0, but Martin Peters struck four times for Tottenham at Old Trafford and the Reds sunk to 21st in the table.

In December United crashed 0-5 at Crystal Palace, and O'Farrell was sacked along with his coaching staff. Scotland manager Tommy Docherty was appointed to mount a rescue operation, and drew on his fellow Scots he had knowledge of in his international duties to help. Midfielder George Graham (Arsenal), Right-Back Alex Forsyth (Partick Thistle), Centre-Half Jim Holton (Shrewsbury Town) and diminutive forward Lou Macari (Glasgow Celtic) were drafted into the team. Macari scored on his debut, a 2-2 draw with West Ham United and the Tartan Army in Red shirts had now become seven. Tommy Cavanagh arrived from Hull City to become Docherty's new assistant. Cavanagh brought discipline and enthusiasm to the training ground.

At the time of the Doc's arrival George Best had quit the game and fled to hide in Spain, disillusioned with the decline of the club and burnt out with the pressures of superstar status. Another loss was the promising young Sammy McIlroy, badly injured in a car crash and out of the reckoning until August.

Interest in the Cup competitions was short lived. Oxford were tamed in the League Cup at the second attempt, but following a draw at Eastville, Third Division Bristol Rovers pulled off a shock 2-1 win at Old Trafford. Wolverhampton Wanderers dumped the Reds out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle 1-0.

In the League an eight game unbeaten run pulled United up to 18th place, the rugged Holton proving a capable foil for Buchan in defence. Ted MacDougall, after 18 appearances and 5 goals was sold to West Ham for £170,000 in March. Easter yielded wins over Norwich (1-0) and Crystal Palace (2-0), then a success at Leeds eased most of the relegation worries. A draw with Manchester City guaranteed safety, and the final game at Chelsea was Bobby Charlton's 754th and last in a United shirt, easily a club record. He retired 17 years after his debut in 1956. The final position was 18th, and Charlton was leading scorer with a mere 6 goals.

John Fitzpatrick was forced into retirement through injury. The charismatic Doc controversially gave free transfers to long-serving men Tony Dunne and Denis Law. Dunne went to Bolton Wanderers and the angry Lawman was snapped up by Manchester City for the second time in his career.

 
         

1973-74

   

Relegation:     Denis Law backheeled the ball past Stepney to stun the watching 57,000

For the new season United turned out at Arsenal for the opening game: Stepney, Young, Buchan, Daly, Holton, James, Morgan, Anderson, Macari, Graham, Martin. Sammy McIlroy returned as substitute, but the Reds went down 0-3. They defeated Stoke and Queens Park Rangers in the next two fixtures, but won only 3 of the next 26, with goalscoring an acute problem. A defensive-minded approach gave few chances to the isolated Macari up front. Goalkeeper Alex Stepney took over penalty-taking duties, and scored with his first two kicks, including the only goal of the game against Birmingham City to briefly become leading scorer. Brian Greenhoff forced his way into midfield in place of Mick Martin.

George Best returned to the fold, unfit but still gifted. But Ian Storey-Moore was forced to retire with a serious ankle injury. He had played 44 times and scored 12 goals, losing the 28-year-old was a sad loss. Stewart Houston came from Brentford to take over at Left-Back, but the 0-3 defeat at Queens Park Rangers on New Years Day saw the Reds plunging down to 21st place once more. For the next game, an FA Cup tie against Plymouth, Best was dropped and promptly walked out on the club again, just 19 games and 4 goals into his comeback. His United career was over, 10 years after his debut as a skinny 17-year-old.

Plymouth were beaten 1-0 but in the 4th Round Ipswich Town came to Old Trafford and triumphed thanks to a Kevin Beattie goal. Earlier in the season Middlesborough had pulled off the same result in the League Cup 2nd Round, and now Docherty had only First Division survival to concentrate on.

In the first seven games of 1974 just 4 goals were scored, whilst across town the discarded Denis Law was netting regularly for City. Jim McCalliog was recruited from Wolverhampton Wanderers to add craft to the midfield, and more positive tactics produced a revival. United won at Sheffield United in March with a Macari goal but each game was riddled with tension. In a bitter 'Derby' match at Maine Road, Macari and Manchester City's Doyle were sent off following a brawl, but refused to walk. Referee Thomas took both sides off the field but on their return none of the remaining twenty could register a goal.

McCalliog soon made his mark with 3 goals in three wins, Norwich (2-0) Newcastle (1-0) and Everton (3-0). But with three up-three down now adopted the situation was still desperate with 3 matches left. In a critical fixture United lost 0-1 at Everton and next had to beat Manchester City at home to have any chance of survival. A tense stalemate was broken in the 82nd minute when Denis Law backheeled the ball past Stepney to stun the watching 57,000. Thousands soon invaded the pitch, and the match was abandoned, but the result was allowed to stand. United's 36 year stay in the top flight was over. Their relegation was sealed by Birminghams win over Norwich which made Law's goal and even a possible United win on the day irrelevant. Only 48 goals had been conceded, but a mere 38 scored, with McIlroy leading the way with 6.

It was unfair to blame the Doc entirely, it was the culmination of six years decline from being Champions of Europe. Docherty was entrusted with the task of restoring their status.

 
         

1974-75

   

Average home gate of 48,388 - a new record for the Second Division

"giant-killing Walsall knocked the Reds out of the FA Cup, the 3rd Div side winning 3-2 after extra time"

Transfer activity in readiness for life in Division 2 saw £200,000 go to Hull City for lively Centre-Forward Stuart Pearson. Loyal servants Brian Kidd and Jimmy Rimmer joined Arsenal. United won their first game 2-0 at Orient and had maximum points after 5 outings. Gerry Daly recorded a hat-trick as Millwall were wiped out 4-0, Portsmouth and Cardiff falling also against Dochertys vibrant young side. Lou Macari had adopted a midfield role with George Graham losing his place. The Reds led the table, playing bold attacking football to the approval of the Red faithful who filled grounds up and down the country, but also an unruly and violent element lingered that tarnished the name of the club.

At the end of September came the first defeat, at Norwich, but the goals continued to rattle in, 4 against Oxford and threes Bolton and Blackpool. Close challengers Sunderland visited in November and led 2-1 at one stage, but strikes from Morgan and McIlroy salvaged a 3-2 win in front of 60,585, Uniteds biggest ever attendance for a Division 2 match. At Sheffield Wednesday Jim Holton broke his leg, Brian Greenhoff forming an alliance with Buchan that would last some time. A 3-1 deficit was turned into a thrilling 4-4 draw.

In the League Cup, Charlton were demolished 5-1, and next a Gerry Daly penalty was enough to beat Manchester City 1-0 at Old Trafford. More top-flight opposition were eliminated, Burnley 3-2 and Middlesborough 3-0, and Norwich City were drawn in the Semi-Finals. Cast-off Ted MacDougall came back to haunt the Doc, scoring twice to answer Macari's brace in the first leg, and a single goal in the return at Carrow Road ended Uniteds hopes. Giant-killing Walsall knocked the Reds out of the FA Cup, the Third Division side winning 3-2 after extra time at Fellows Park after a goalless draw in Manchester.

The promotion bid stuttered with Pearson missing through injury for a spell, Docherty responding by selling McCalliog and using the money to buy young winger Steve Coppell from Tranmere for £40,000. Bristol City snatched a win at Old Trafford to complete a unique 'double', but Cardiff were blitzed 4-0 when Coppell came on as substitute, and a 11-match unbeaten sequence carried the Reds to the end of the season. Macari earned a 1-0 win at Southampton in April to clinch promotion, and a 2-2 draw at Notts County sealed the Title with a game to spare. The trophy was presented at Old Trafford before the final game against Blackpool, the team being: Stepney, Forsyth, Houston, Greenhoff, James, Buchan, Coppell, McIlroy, Pearson, Macari, Daly. 58,769 witnessed a 4-0 romp to give the Reds 61 points, 3 clear of Aston Villa. Pearson claimed 17 of the 66 League goals, with Macari and spot-kick king Daly contributing 11. The average home gate of 48,388 was up almost 6,000 on 1973/74, and was a new record for the Second Division. United had found their feet, ahead lay tougher challenges back in the big time.

 
         

1975-76

   
68 League goals

Back in Division 1, Docherty sold Willie Morgan to Burnley following a public spat. Morgan was replaced by Tommy Jackson, a free transfer signing from Nottingham Forest, who added experience to a youngish squad as youth was given its head. Jackson played in the first 16 games as the Reds caught fire, winning 5 of the first 6 matches. They topped the League for five weeks, seeing off Wolves and Birmingham 2-0, Sheffield United 5-1, Stoke 1-0 and Tottenham 3-2. Brian Greenhoff had secured a regular place alongside Buchan at the back, which was to lead to England recognition for the Barnsley lad.

A 1-2 defeat at West Ham moved the manager to drop Stepney and bring in Paddy Roche, an Irish International keeper. In the League Cup United had beaten Brentford, and then Aston Villa 2-1, the latter a thrilling success at Villa Park. But a slump eventually came in November. Roche's uncertain handling cost the Reds dearly, 1-3 losses at Liverpool and Arsenal, and between those, an embarrassing 0-4 League Cup exit at Manchester City, Tueart opening the scoring inside 30 seconds. Stepney was restored in goal, and Gordon Hill, a tricky Left-Winger was purchased from Millwall for £70,000. With a bold 4-2-4 approach incorporating two wingers, they tore apart Sheffield United 4-1 and were unbeaten through December and January.

Steady progress in the FA Cup was made, Oxford, Peterborough and Leicester all falling to the free-flowing style. Wolves in Round 6 held the Reds 1-1 at Old Trafford, and quickly took the lead in the replay at Molineux, but United launched a superb fightback to win 3-2. Reigning Champions Derby County were favourites in the Semi-Final at Hillsborough, but two spectacular goals from Gordon Hill propelled the Reds to Wembley, their first FA Cup Final since 1963.

In the League, West Ham were drubbed 4-0 and Newcastle beaten 4-3 with the aid of 2 own-goals. But in the run-in Liverpool drew clear and finished 4 points ahead of the Reds. United's title hopes finally died with a 0-1 reverse at home to Stoke, but they were strongly tipped to triumph at Wembley. Second Division Southampton, with ex-Red McCalliog in their ranks, stole a winner in a disappointing Final with a late Bobby Stokes goal to leave United empty-handed in a wonderful season. The Team was: Stepney, Forsyth, Houston, Daly, Greenhoff, Buchan, Coppell, McIlroy, Pearson, Macari, Hill (McCreery).

The final League position was 3rd, with 68 League goals proof of their entertainment value. Pearson and Macari each scored 13, and England manager Don Revie was soon to call up Greenhoff, Pearson, Coppell and Hill to his squad.


Stretford End late 1970's by
Tony Smith   .......  Tony's Quiz
 
         
    1977 - 1990's coming soon ......

The History of MUFC was compiled and written by Jenny....
May 1996  E-mail: Jennya@USA.PIPELINE.COM

Oct 1998: Please note that the history is being expanded & updated by Paul Hinson  <P.L.Hinson@ais.salford.ac.uk>

Webmasters:
Barry Leeming & Bill McArthur
BArry@mufc.dk
 
         
   

TRIBUTES:

From: Nicholas Greet <nicholas.greet@stonebow.otago.ac.nz>

A big thank you to Jenny for the hard work and energy in providing all of the historical data. Nick

 
         
   

From: Dudley Upton <dku0@gte.com>

Wow! What a document! I think you have earned the title of "The archivist." You have certainly put a lot of work into the project and I for one will be eternally grateful. Where did you unearth this trove of information? Are you a History major? Have you done this before? I am amazed to read the rich vein of historical data you have been kind enough to broadcast to the list. I never knew about the players union origins, the debt we owe Manchester City for the use of Maine Road, or many of the ups and downs of the pre-war years. Thanks for the effort, thanks for the keepsake, and thanks for your diligence. Support the Reds unequivocally Regards, Dudley Upton

 
         
   

From: Danny McManamon <djm@moc.govt.nz>

Thanks to Jenny for putting the Reds history on the list - great job.

 
         
   

From: Paul Hinson <p.l.hinson@ais.salford.ac.uk>

Jenny has done an excellent job on the History of MUFC. I would like to mention a couple of points. Back in May 1931 Herbert Bamlett was sacked as Manager after United were relegated, finishing bottom and conceding 115 goals. Walter Crickmer, who was club secretary, took over duties of team selection along with Louis Rocca, until August 1932, when Scott Duncan was appointed.

You mentioned that Duncan promised to infuse new blood into the team and re-vamp the Youth system. Well, he spent a very large amount of money on new players, mainly from his native Scotland (shades of the Doc).

His signings included Neil Dewar (Third Lanark), Chalmers (Cowdenbeath), Byrne (Shamrock Rovers) and Bamford (Wrexham). In 32-33 United finished 6th in Division 2, hardly a return for the outlay, and lost at home to Middlesbrough 1-4 in the 3rd Round of the Cup. In 33-34, as you recalled we won our final match at Millwall 2-0 to narrowly avoid the humiliation of Division 3.

We climbed to 5th in 34-35, and finally went up as Champions in 35-36. However, United went down again in 36-37 (incidentally whilst City were Champions) and after the first 14 games of 37-38 Duncan resigned to take over at Ipswich Town. He had 4 years of a 5 year contract remaining. The 'gap' in your history is easy to explain...

Crickmer again took over the managerial reins in November 1937. His first game in charge saw United win 7-1 at Chesterfield, which might say something about the outgoing manager.

United gained promotion as runners-up in 37-38 (reigning champions City were relegated), and Crickmer continued his combined duties until February 1945, when Matt Busby was offered a 5 year contract by the Directors upon completion of his army duties.

One final bit of trivia. In the 1948 FA Cup final, (United 4 Blackpool 2) the Tangerine's 2nd goal was later credited to Stan Mortensen rather than Hugh Kelly. Mortensen also scored a hat trick in the 1953 final against Bolton Wanderers, the last such occurence in an FA Cup final.

Keep up the tremendous work Jenny....

To the Who`s Who of Manchester United

 


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