Manchester United FC
Manchester United FC Information
Matt Busby Way, Old Trafford, MANCHESTER. M16 0RA
Manchester United FC History
Manchester United F.C. is an
English football club based at Old Trafford in Greater
Manchester. Common abbreviations include Man United, United and
Man U., although few of the club's supporters still use 'Man U.'
and many find it annoying.
They were formed as Newton Heath LYR F.C. in 1878, as the works
team of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton
Heath, becoming Manchester United on 26 April 1902.
Traditionally one of the larger and most-supported clubs in
England, Manchester United, under manager Sir Alex Ferguson
achieved a degree of dominance in domestic competitions in the
1990s unseen since the great Liverpool F.C. sides of the mid
1970s and early 1980s. This culminated in 1999, with the club
winning an unprecedented treble of the English Premier League,
FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
In 2004, Manchester United qualified for the group stage of the
Champions League for the ninth successive year, breaking a
record held by Norway's Rosenborg. Manchester United have been
largely unable to transfer their domestic dominance to European
competition; in fact qualifying for the European Cup final on
only two occasions in their history.
Their last success in this competition was in 1999, when they
came from behind in the last minutes of the UEFA Champions
League final to beat Bayern Munich 2-1. Although their dominance
in English football is considered by some to be over, they are
still one of the best teams in British football, the only team
who remain a viable threat to Chelsea F.C. in the current
2004-2005 season. In addition, the club are the most financially
successful in England, due to their supporter base which reaches
all around the world, even to Asia.
Manchester United began life in 1878 as Newton Heath, formed by
workers of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. They nearly
went bankrupt in 1902 and were rescued and renamed as Manchester
United. The earliest known film of Manchester United is the 2–0
victory at Burnley on 6 December 1902, filmed by Mitchell and
United have had three successful eras, under J. Ernest Mangnall
in the 1900s, in the 50s and 60s under Sir Matt Busby, and in
the 90s to present under Sir Alex Ferguson. They have won the FA
Cup 11 times, the most of any team, and 15 league championships.
They have also won the European Cup (now Champions League) twice.
These trophies make them the second-most successful club ever in
England, behind Liverpool F.C. who have a record 18 league
titles, 4 European Cups and 6 FA Cups, although Manchester
United have sustained their sucesses over far longer periods.
The 1958 Manchester United team was nicknamed the "Busby Babes".
On February 6, they were flying home from a European Cup match
against Red Star Belgrade when the plane crashed on takeoff in a
snow storm in Munich, Germany (see Munich air disaster). Eight
team members were killed, and two players suffered career-ending
injuries. Amongst the dead was Duncan Edwards, a 21-year-old who
many believe was on his way to establishing himself as one of
England's greatest players ever. A survivor, Bobby Charlton
would help England to win the Football World Cup in 1966.
1999 was arguably United's best season, in which the Red Devils
won the Premier League, The FA Cup (beating Newcastle United)
and the Champions League. The Champions League win was
especially memorable, as United scored two goals in stoppage
time to defeat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the final.
Early Years (1878-1902)
Manchester United began life in 1878 as Newton Heath F.C., a
team formed by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway organisation.
The club competed in railway competitions until 1889 when it
joined the Football Alliance, a league below the Football League.
When the Football League expanded in 1892, Newton Heath was
elected to the First Division but suffered relegation to the
Second Division after just two seasons. Newton Heath's only
claim to success was victory in the 1898 Lancashire Cup and by
the turn of the 20th century they were in deep financial trouble.
The club's financial problems were so severe that by February
1902 they were in receivership with debts of £2,670. The club
was saved by a group of four men who each injected £500 into it,
leading the consortium was Manchester brewer J.H Davies. Until
1893 Newton Heath played at a spartan ground in Monsall Road,
Newton Heath, before relocating to a better-equipped stadium at
Bank Street, Clayton.
Manchester United is born
Following the takeover by J.H Davies, the club's finances had
been secured and the new owners decided to change Newton Heath's
name to Manchester United.
The First Great United Side
Davies appointed Ernest Magnall as team manager in 1903 and the
club began to move forward, winning promotion to the First
Division in 1906, the league title in 1908 and the FA Cup in
1909. Davies helped pay for a new stadium in 1910, located in
the Stretford area. It was named Old Trafford and was capable of
holding more than 70,000 supporters as well as having top class
facilities for players and spectators alike. United marked their
first full season in their new home by lifting another league
title in 1911. This was to be their last major honour for many
years. Their manager Ernest Magnall joined Manchester City, and
from then on the club drifted like a boat without a rudder.
The Interwar Years
Successive managers, including Herbert Bamlett, John Chapman and
Scott Duncan, attempted to put Manchester United back on course.
But still the club bounced from First to Second Division and
back again, perhaps uncertain as to their rightful place. Added
to this, money was again a problem.
J.H Davies died in 1927 to be succeeded by James Gibson. He too
injected cash into the club and fought off the creditors.
By 1938, Manchester United were back in the Second Division but
their debt now amounted to more than £70,000.
Old Trafford is Bombed
First-class football was suspended for the duration of the
Second World War (1939-45), but Manchester United continued to
compete in part-time regional competitions. Old Trafford was
severely damaged during a German air-raid on Manchester in the
early hours of 11th March 1941. It took eight years to build and
until 1949 United ground-shared with neighbouring Manchester
City at Maine Road.
When the war ended in 1945, 36-year-old Matt Busby was named as
the club's new manager. He had just finished his playing career
which had seen him turn out for Manchester City and Liverpool as
well as the Scottish national side. Busby had a limited transfer
budget so many of his players were home-grown. The only major
signing of the post-war years was Scottish winger Jimmy Delaney
from Celtic, while several players remained from the immediate
The Great Post-War United side
Matt Busby helped end Manchester United's 37-year wait for a
major trophy when his side defeated Blackpool (then a big club
containing world class players like Stanley Matthews and Stan
Mortensen) 4-2 in the 1948 FA Cup final. Busby had unearthed new
stars in the shape of captain Johnny Carey and the forward-line
of John Downie, John Aston, Jack Rowley and Stan Pearson. The
side's good progress continued into the 1950's and they won the
league title in 1952—the club's first league championship in 41
By 1952, the side captained by Johnny Carey was beginning to
show its age and a new set of players had to be found.
The Busby Babes
Matt Busby took a radically different direction to other clubs
when rebuilding his ageing team. Rather than splash out huge
sums of money on world-renown players, he recruited teenage
players who had just left school. In the space of five years, he
only made two major signings - winger John Berry from Birmingham
and striker Tommy Taylor from Barnsley. Home-grown youngesters
like Bobby Charlton, Dennis Viollet, Duncan Edwards, Albert
Scanlon, Mark Jones and Bill Foulkes established themself as
regular first team players at a very early age and the policy
paid off as United maintained their reputation as a strong team.
Manchester United won the league championship in 1955-56 thanks
to the efforts of a team whose average age was just 22 years.
They were England's first representatives in the European Cup,
and reached the quarter finals where they were knocked out by
the great Spaniards of Real Madrid. United retained the league
title in 1956-57 but lost out on a domestic double by losing 2-1
to Aston Villa in the F.A Cup final.
The Munich Air Disaster
On 6th February 1958, Manchester United were flying home from
Yugoslavia where they had beaten Red Star Belgrade to reach the
European Cup semi finals. The plane stopped to refuel at Munich,
West Germany, and on take-off it overshot the runway and crashed
into the snow. Seven players (Roger Byrne, Geoff Bent, Mark
Jones, Eddie Colman, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Bill Whelan)
and three club officials (secretary Walter Crickmer and coaches
Tom Curry and Bert Whalley) were killed instantly. Eight
journalists (including the former Manchester City goalkeeper
Frank Swift), a friend of Matt Busby named Willie Satinoff, a
member of the crew and a travel agent also died at the scene. 21
people lost their lives that day. An eighth player, the great
21-year-old wing-half Duncan Edwards, died in hospital from his
injuries two weeks later, as did co-pilot Ken Rayment, bringing
the death toll to 23. Jackie Blanchflower and John Berry were
injured to such an extent that their playing careers were over.
Matt Busby himself was in hospital for two months recovering
from multiple injuries.
While Busby recovered in hospital, his assistant Jimmy Murphy
took temporary charge of team affairs and guided United to the
FA Cup final, where a side made up of Munich survivors and youth
team players lost to Bolton Wanderers.
The Great 1960's Team
Matt Busby spent heavily on new players in the five years that
followed the Munich Air Disaster, as well as retaining some
players from the pre-Munich era. The likes of David Herd, Denis
Law, Albert Quixall and Paddy Crerand helped United beat
Leicester City 2-1 in the F.A Cup final in 1963. Bobby Charlton,
Bill Foulkes and Harry Gregg were the only three pre-Munich
players left in the side by that date. In the 1963-64 season a
17-year-old Northern Irish forward called George Best broke into
the first time and quickly became one of the most exciting
talents in the footballing world.
United won the league championship in 1965 and regained it two
years later, but the pinnacle of Matt Busby's reign came in 1968
when United hammered Benfica 4-1 in the European Cup final at
Wembley Stadium. Busby received a knighthood while star player
George Best was voted European Footballer of the Year.
Busby retired in 1969 and became a director. He handed over the
reins to reserve team manager Wilf McGuinness, whose playing
career had been ended a decade earlier by a broken leg.
The Early 1970's Decline
Wilf McGuinness was sacked in December 1970 after just 18 months
in charge of a Manchester United team whose league fortunes had
plummeted. Bobby Charlton and Denis Law were approaching the end
of their careers while George Best was constantly missing
training and sometimes even matches after heavy drinking
sessions in nightclubs.
Busby returned to the manager's seat on a temporary basis until
the appointment of Frank O'Farrell, who had been sacked by
December 1972 as United hovered just above the First Division
relegation zone. His successor was the Scottish national coach
Tommy Docherty, who was unable to save United from relegation at
the end of the 1973-74 season. Their fate was ironically sealed
by a 1-0 defeat at home to neighbours Manchester City, with the
only goal of the game coming from former United striker Dennis
Law - who retired days afterwards. By this stage, long-serving
legendary players like Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes had
retired and troublesome striker George Best had been sacked.
The 1977 FA Cup victory
Tommy Docherty got Manchester United back into the First
Division at the first time of asking, as they won the Second
Division championship at the end of the 1974-75 season. They
lost the 1976 F.A. Cup final to Southampton but overcame
Liverpool the following year to secure their first major trophy
in the post-Busby era. The new-look Manchester United side
contained impressive young players like Steve Coppell, Brian
Greenhoff, Jimmy Greenhoff, Arthur Albiston and Stewart Pearson.
Docherty was sacked just weeks after the 1977 FA Cup victory for
having an affair with the wife of the club's physiotherapist.
The Dave Sexton Era
Q.P.R manager Dave Sexton was the Manchester United director's
choice for Docherty's replacement, and spent four years trying
to mount a title challenge - coming agonisingly close in 1980 by
finishing runners-up to Liverpool. But he was finally sacked in
the summer of 1981 after four seasons at the helm had failed to
deliver a major trophy.
The Ron Atkinson Era
Dave Sexton's replacement was the colourful West Bromwich Albion
manager Ron Atkinson. Atkinson spent heavily in his quest to
bring success to United, paying large sums of money for players
like Bryan Robson, Remi Moses, Frank Stapleton and Gordon
Strachan. This impressive set of players gave United FA Cup
success over Brighton in 1983 and Everton in 1985, but failed to
gain a league title. Atkinson was finally sacked in November
1986 as United were struggling near the foot of the First
The Alex Ferguson Era
Alex Ferguson, who had achieved huge success with Aberdeen in
Scotland, was named as Atkinson's successor and guided United to
a mid table finish. They even managed to win an away game,
beating Liverpool at Anfield and helping crush the Merseysiders'
title challenge. During the close season Ferguson made expensive
new signings including Viv Anderson, Steve Bruce and Brian
McClair. The new players had a positive effect on a United side
who finished league runners-up in the 1987-88 season, although
they were nine points behind champions Liverpool. After the end
of the season, striker Mark Hughes returned to United after two
unsuccessful years with Barcelona in Spain.
United were hopeful of mounting another title challenge in
1988-89, but their season wallowed away following the turn of
1989 and they finished 11th in the final table - behind weaker
and less expensively assembled sides like Coventry City and
Norwich City. The addition of Neil Webb, Paul Ince and Gary
Pallister in the 1989 close season was seen as vital for Alex
Ferguson's hopes of mounting a serious title challenge.
F.A Cup and Cup Winners Cup success
Manchester United had a difficult season in 1989-90, finishing
13th in the league - their lowest finish since relegation in
1974. Fans were calling for Alex Ferguson to be sacked but the
club's board stood by the manager and were rewarded with an F.A
Cup final victory over Crystal Palace, managed by former United
player Steve Coppell.
1990-91 saw United progress further, although a lack of league
consistency saw them finish sixth in the First Division. They
lost to Second Division Sheffield Wednesday, managed by former
United manager Ron Atkinson, in the League Cup final. But the
season ended on a high note when United marked the return of
English clubs to European football (following the ban arising
from the Heysel Disaster) by beating Barcelona 2-1 in the Cup
Winners Cup final in Rotterdam.
Nearly but not quite
Manchester United won a major trophy in 1991-92, making it three
successive trophy-winning seasons in a row. They defeated
Nottingham Forest 1-0 in the League Cup final. Another bright
spot of the season was the emergence of the extremely talented
18-year-old Welsh winger Ryan Giggs. But the season ended in
disappointment when they were overhauled by Leeds United in the
race for the last ever Football League Championship before the
creation of the F.A Premier League.
Champions at Last
Manchester United had a mixed first few months in the Premier
League, slipping up and down the top ten of the 22-club
division. But the acquisition of Eric Cantona, the Frenchman who
had helped Leeds win the previous season's title, in late
November helped United improve their league form and cruise to
the league title after a 26-year wait. Young winger Ryan Giggs
was voted PFA Young Player of the Year for the second running.
After the season was over, United paid an English record fee of
£3.75million for Nottingham Forest's 22-year-old Irish
midfielder Roy Keane. Alex Ferguson saw keen as a long-term
replacement for the ageing Bryan Robson, who would remain at Old
Trafford for one more season before leaving to become
player-manager of Middlesbrough.
Manchester United led the 1993-94 Premiership table virtually
all season long, with Eric Cantona scoring 25 goals in all
competitions and the likes of Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Ryan Giggs
and Lee Sharpe providing their own fair share of goals. United
finished as champions with a seven-point gap over runners-up
Blackburn and completed the double by beating Chelsea 4-0 in the
F.A Cup final. Eric Cantona, who scored two penalties in the
final at Wembley, was voted PFA Player of the Year.
The 1994-95 season rarely saw Manchester United out of the
headlines, although they were not always the sort of headlines
the club wanted.
Eric Cantona was banned for 8 months and ordered to serve 120
hours' community service for kicking a Crystal Palace supporter
who had taunted him after being sent off in a January fixture at
Selhurst Park. United were also without players like Paul
Parker, Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis for long periods of
time due to injury.
On a brighter note, United broke the English transfer record
again by paying £7million for Newcastle United's free-scoring
striker Andy Cole. He had been signed just two weeks before the
Cantona incident as an eventual replacement for Mark Hughes, but
with Cantona suspended it was Hughes who ended up being Cole's
partner for the rest of the season.
United almost made it three Premiership titles in a row, but
just couldn't get the better of West Ham United who held them to
a 1-1 away draw on the final day of the season. The
disappointment was made all the more frustrating because
champions Blackburn had lost their final game of the season to
Liverpool (the former club of manager Kenny Dalglish) and a
victory for United would have seen Alex Ferguson's side win the
title. The F.A Cup also slipped out of United's grasp when they
lost 1-0 to unfancied Everton in the final at Wembley. This left
United without a major trophy for the first time since 1989.
The Double Double
Before the 1995-96 season began, United announced the sale of
three of their star players - Paul Ince to Inter Milan, Mark
Hughes to Chelsea and Andrei Kanchelskis to Everton - for a
combined fee of £14million.
Alex Ferguson was expected to splash out a large sum of money on
a world class player - Roberto Baggio, Marc Overmars, Darren
Anderton, David Platt (who had been a United youth player in the
mid 1980's) and Paul Gascoigne (who had snubbed the club in
favour of Tottenham in 1988) were all linked with moves to
United. But United began the season without a major signing and
a side made up of young players like David Beckham (20), Gary
Neville (20), Phil Neville (18), Paul Scholes (21) and Nicky
Butt (20) lost 3-1 at Aston Villa on the opening day of the
season. Many pundits wrote United's title chances off and
expected big spending clubs like Newcastle, Liverpool and
Arsenal to win the season's honours.
Alex Ferguson was defiant of the critics, and following the
return of Eric Cantona in early October, United went into
overdrive. They chased Newcastle United for the top-of-the-table
position and didn't give up hope even when trailing Kevin
Keegan's side by 10 points at Christmas.
United finally went top of the Premiership in mid March, shortly
after beating Newcastle at St James's Park, and their title
success was confirmed with a 3-0 away win at Bryan Robson's
Middlesbrough on the final day of the season. A week later
United beat Liverpool 1-0 in the F.A Cup final to become the
first ever English club to win the league title/F.A Cup double
twice. Eric Cantona, who scored 19 goals in 1995-96 (including
the F.A Cup final winner), was voted Footballer of the Year by
football journalists who were impressed at the way he had
returned from his suspension. Cantona was made team captain
following the departure of veteran Steve Bruce to Birmingham
1995-96 was one of the most successful seasons in the history of
Manchester United football club, and the success was perhaps
made even sweeter by the fact that so many people had written
the club's chances off almost before the season began.
Manchester United won their fourth Premiership title in five
seasons in 1996-97, with little-known Norweigan striker Ole
Solskjaer forcing his way into the side after his £1.5million
move from FK Molde and scoring 19 goals in all competitions.
Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Gary Neville all had an impressive
seasons while Eric Cantona and Andy Cole both fell below their
The club's most expensive acquisition in the summer of 1996 had
been Karel Poborsky, the 23-year-old Czech winger signed from
Slavia Prague for £3.5million. But he was unable to claim the
right-wing position from the brilliant young David Beckham and
eventually moved to Benfica.
At the end of the season, Eric Cantona sent shockwaves
throughout the footballing world by announcing his retirement
from football just a few days before his 31st birthday. Cantona
explained his relatively early retirement by saying that he
wanted to retire while still at his peak, and not wallow away
into mediocrity. He was replaced by the respected England
international Teddy Sheringham, a £3.5million signing from
Tottenham who was initially disappointing but would later start
to repay his fee in style.
The 1997-98 season saw Manchester United overhauled by Arsenal
in the Premiership and finish empty-handed for only the second
time in the 1990's. Shortly after this disappointment, Alex
Ferguson went on a spending spree of £28.35million (twice
breaking the club's transfer record) by signing Dutch defender
Jaap Stam from PSV, Trinidadian striker Dwight Yorke from Aston
Villa and Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist from Parma. He was
determined to avoid disappointment in 1998-99, although even he
could surely not have predicted just how successful United would
Manchester United won their final game of the 1998-99 season to
ensure that they, and not Arsenal, would be Premiership
champions. A week later they completed a unique third
championship/F.A Cup double by beating Newcastle United 2-0, and
four days after the F.A Cup success they took on Bayern Munich
at the Nou Camp, Barcelona, in the Champions League (European
Cup) final. Mario Basler's early strike appeared to have won it
for the Germans as they led 1-0 after 90 minutes, but the
referee allowed 3 minutes of injury time. Teddy Sheringham
appeared to have forced extra time when he fired in an equaliser
within the first minute of extra time, but Ole Solskjaer scored
the winner and made history with the last kick of the game.
Manchester United became the first English team to win the
championship/F.A Cup/European Cup treble. Alex Ferguson was
later awarded a knighthood for his contribution to United's
Into the New Millennium
The new millennium has seen Sir Alex Ferguson's side land more
silverware, although they have faced some stiff competition off
other teams - first Arsenal and now Chelsea.
Many players have come and gone. Since the 1999 treble success,
Peter Schmeichel, Denis Irwin, Ronny Johnsen, David Beckham,
Nicky Butt, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Jaap Stam and Dwight
Yorke have all left to be replaced by a new generation of
players including Tim Howard, Roy Carroll, Rio Ferdinand,
Gabriel Heinze, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne
Rooney. Other expensive players like Fabien Barthez and Juan
Sebastian Veron have arrived and left within the space of a few
United won the Premiership title in 1999-2000 with an 18-point
margin over runners-up Arsenal and just three league defeats all
season. They won their third successive title the following
season, making United the fourth team to achieve that success
and Sir Alex Ferguson the first manager to stay in charge of any
team thoughout a championship hat-trick.
Sir Alex Ferguson had intended to retire at the end of 2001-02,
but then decided to postpone his retirement by at least three
seasons. This uncertainty could not have helped United's playing
fortunes after a disastrous run of six defeats in seven
Premiership fixtures earlier in the season counted against
United and they finished third in the table - the first time
they had been out of the top two since 1991.
United won another Premiership title in 2002-03, overhauling
Arsenal to secure their eigth title in 11 seasons. Sir Alex
Ferguson even described this success as his greatest achievement
since becoming United manager in 1986.
But the sale of David Beckham and the suspension of Rio
Ferdinand (for a total of 8 months, including the final 4 months
of the season) sabotaged United's title challenge in 2003-04 and
they finished third in the Premiership, which was won by
unbeaten Arsenal. United were knocked out of the Champions
League by FC Porto and the League Cup by Aston Villa, but they
salvaged some success by beating Millwall 3-0 in the F.A Cup
To date, Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager in
English football. He has so far won eight Premiership titles,
five F.A Cups, one League Cup, one European Cup, one Cup Winners
Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and seven charity shields (one
shared) - 24 trophies in all. He had expressed a desire to
continue in his job for a good few years yet, and there is
surely more to come. He may even help United emulate Liverpool's
record as winning the most trophies than any other English
Manchester United FC Honours, Trophies & Awards
League Championships: 15
1911, 1952, 1956, 1957, 1965, 1967,
1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000,
FA Cups: 11
1948, 1963, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1990,
1994, 1996, 1999, 2004
League Cup: 1
UEFA Champions League Championships: 2
1967-68, 4-1 vs Benfica
1998-99, 2-1 vs FC Bayern M.
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: 1
Intercontinental Cup: 1
European Super Cup: 1
FA Charity Shield/Community Shields: 15
1911, 1952, 1956, 1957, 1965*, 1967*,
1977*, 1983, 1990*, 1993, 1994, 1996,
1997, 2003 (*as joint holders)
- BBC Sports
Personality of the Year Team Award
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