History of Manchester United F.C. (1969–86)

Following an eighth-place finish in the 1969–70 season and a poor start to the 1970–71 season, Busby was persuaded to temporarily resume managerial duties, and McGuinness returned to his position as reserve team coach. In June 1971, Frank O’Farrell was appointed as manager, but lasted just 18 months before being replaced by Tommy Docherty in December 1972. Docherty saved Manchester United from relegation that season, only to see them relegated in 1974; by that time the trio of Best, Law, and Charlton had left the club. The team won promotion at the first attempt and reached the FA Cup final in 1976, but were beaten by Southampton. They reached the final again in 1977, beating Liverpool 2–1. Docherty was dismissed shortly afterwards, following the revelation of his affair with the club physiotherapist’s wife.

Dave Sexton replaced Docherty as manager in the summer of 1977. Despite major signings, including Joe Jordan, Gordon McQueen, Gary Bailey, and Ray Wilkins, the team failed to achieve any significant results; they finished in the top two in 1979–80 and lost to Arsenal in the 1979 FA Cup Final. Sexton was dismissed in 1981, even though the team won the last seven games under his direction. He was replaced by Ron Atkinson, who immediately broke the British record transfer fee to sign Bryan Robson from West Bromwich Albion. Under Atkinson, Manchester United won the FA Cup twice in three years – in 1983 and 1985. In 1985–86, after 13 wins and two draws in its first 15 matches, the club was favourite to win the league, but finished in fourth place. The following season, with the club in danger of relegation by November, Atkinson was dismissed.

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History of Manchester United F.C. (1945–69)

 

In October 1945, the impending resumption of football led to the managerial appointment of Matt Busby, who demanded an unprecedented level of control over team selection, player transfers and training sessions. Busby led the team to second-place league finishes in 1947, 1948 and 1949, and to FA Cup victory in 1948 – the club’s first major trophy for 37 years. In 1952, the club won the First Division, its first league title for 41 years.

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Sir Matt Busby

 

With an average age of 22, the media labelled the back-to-back title winning side of 1956 and 1957 “the Busby Babes”, a testament to Busby’s faith in his youth players who had gradually replaced the older players of the team which had enjoyed success in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1956-57, Manchester United became the first English team to compete in the European Cup, despite objections from the Football League, who had denied Chelsea the same opportunity the previous season. En route to the semi-final, which they lost to Real Madrid, the team recorded a 10–0 victory over Belgian champions Anderlecht, which remains the club’s biggest victory on record.

The following season, on the way home from a European Cup quarter-final victory against Red Star Belgrade, the aircraft carrying the Manchester United players, officials and journalists crashed while attempting to take off after refuelling in Munich, Germany. The Munich air disaster of 6 February 1958 claimed 23 lives, including those of eight players – Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Billy Whelan – and injured several more. Two other players were injured to such an extent that they never played again.

Reserve team manager Jimmy Murphy took over as manager while Busby recovered from his injuries and the club’s makeshift side reached the FA Cup Final, which they lost to Bolton Wanderers. In recognition of the team’s tragedy, UEFA invited the club to compete in the 1958–59 European Cup alongside eventual League champions Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite approval from the FA, the Football League determined that the club should not enter the competition, since it had not qualified. In the two years that followed the tragedy, Busby built a new team around Munich survivors like Bobby Charlton, Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes by making signings including Albert Quixall, Noel Cantwell and Maurice Setters.

Busby rebuilt the team through the 1960s by signing players such as Denis Law and Pat Crerand, who combined with the next generation of youth players – including George Best – to win the FA Cup in 1963, which was the club’s first major trophy since the Munich tragedy. The following season, they finished second in the league, then won the title in 1965 and 1967. In 1968, Manchester United became the first English club to win the European Cup, beating Benfica 4–1 in the final, with a team that contained three European Footballers of the Year: Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best. Matt Busby resigned as manager in 1969 and was replaced by the reserve team coach, former Manchester United player Wilf McGuinness.

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History of Manchester United F.C. (1878–1945)

Manchester United Football Club was formed in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR Football Club by the Carriage and Wagon department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Heath. The team initially played games against other departments and rail companies at their home ground at North Road, but by 1888 the club had become a founding member of The Combination, a regional football league. However, following the league’s dissolution before the end of its first season, Newton Heath joined the newly formed Football Alliance, which ran for three seasons before being merged with The Football League. This resulted in the club starting the 1892–93 season in the First Division, by which time it had become independent of the rail company, dropped the “LYR” from its name and moved to a new ground at Bank Street. After just two seasons, the club was relegated to the Second Division.

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The 1892-93 Newton Heath team

 

In January 1902, with debts of £2,670 – equivalent to £260,000 in 2017 – the club was served with a winding-up order. Captain Harry Stafford found four local businessmen – including John Henry Davies, who became club president – each willing to invest £500 in return for a direct interest in running the club. As a mark of this fresh start, on 24 April 1902, the club’s name was changed to “Manchester United”. Under Ernest Mangnall, who became club secretary in 1903, the team finished as Second Division runners-up in 1906 and secured promotion to the First Division, which it won in 1908 – the club’s first league title. The following season began with victory in the first ever Charity Shield and ended with the club’s first FA Cup title. Manchester United moved to a new stadium at Old Trafford in 1910, and won the First Division for the second time in 1911, but at the end of the following season, secretary Mangnall left to join Manchester City.

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The 1902-03 Manchester United team, whose players pose wearing both home and alternate jerseys.

 

In 1922, three years after the resumption of football following the First World War, the club was relegated to the Second Division, where it remained until regaining promotion in 1925. Relegated again in 1931, Manchester United became a yo-yo club, achieving its all-time lowest position of 20th place in the Second Division in 1934. Following the death of John Henry Davies in October 1927, the club’s finances deteriorated to the extent that Manchester United would likely have gone bankrupt had it not been for an investment of £2,000 in December 1931 by James W. Gibson, who assumed control of the club. In the 1938–39 season – the last year of football before the Second World War – the club finished 14th in the First Division. During the war, the club participated in the Wartime League and the Football League War Cup, but in 1941, Old Trafford was damaged by German bombs and would not be fully repaired until 1949.

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