Friday, December 7, 2007

Manchester United F.C.

Address: Sir Matt Busby Way, Old Trafford, MANCHESTER. M16 0RA
Telephone: (0161) 872 1661
Fax: (0161) 876 5502
Founded: 1878
Stadium: Old Trafford

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 Kenyon.

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.

Matt Busby

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 pre-war years.

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 years.

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 Division.

The Alex Ferguson Era

The Transition

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.

The Double

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 City.

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.

More success

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 expected standards.

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 be.

The Treble

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 success.

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 seasons.

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 final.

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 football club.