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Proof that May 1999 wasn't a dream - United Museum. September 6, 1999



C H A M P I O N S
( again)
Click Here To see United's record in the Charity Shield
Click Here To see United's season by season record since 1889.

I was born in Didsbury, Manchester in 1963 and I have been following United for close on 30 years. Growing up in Manchester in the late sixties, we had two great local sides but I started following United because I liked the colour Red better than sky blue. This may seem a trivial reason to start a lifetime of passionate support but I was only about 6 at the time. Most of my mates at school were blues - Didsbury is a blue enclave.

Anyway, this Web site is my small tribute to the team that I LOVE and have loved since I was a small child. Although I am no longer able to make the trip to Old Trafford every week (I live in California), I 'live' every kick of every game, I sing every song with the United fans at the game and I even shout at the television in the pub at 7am while watching the team. Before the growth of the Internet I was lost. Now I have life again! If you want to read more about my United autobiography (though I can't imagine why - there's plenty of more interesting reading material at this site)
CLICK HERE

In this site, I have concentrated on the history of our great club. We had an inauspicious beginning and for the first twenty odd years, we didn't win a thing. In fact, we almost went bankrupt more than once. To read a brief history of 19th century United CLICK HERE

The early years of the 20th Century produced quite a bit of success. We won the league title for the first time in 1908 and followed it up the next year with the FA Cup. In 1911, we won the League again but then we entered a barren spell. Football was cancelled during the years of the First World War and when league play resumed in the 1920s, United were a pretty poor team. The Thirties were even worse. We bounced between the first and second division for most of the decade until the Second World War stopped competitive play. To learn more about United before Sir Matt Busby made us the club we are today, CLICK HERE

After World War II, the board of directors made the most astute and decisive decision in our history. Although Liverpool had offered more money, Sir Matt Busby chose United. Many great players missed out on their careers due to the war but Sir Matt had the shell of a good team. What he didn't have though, was a ground. Old Trafford lies in Trafford Park, an industrial area of Manchester and during the war, German bombers decimated the stadium. Volunteers were called for to remove the glass and debris from Old Trafford before it could be rebuilt. Meanwhile, Manchester City graciously allowed us to use their ground. To read more about Old Trafford CLICK HERE

In 1948, we won our first major trophy in 37 years, the FA Cup. This side though was largely made up players who were in their late twenties and early thirties. But Sir Matt was laying the foundations for the most successful team in United's history. He was recruiting young players who would help United to dominate the 50s. The league championship was won in 1952 with many of the players from the 1948 FA Cup winning side but by now, they were on their last legs. Meanwhile the youth team began to regularly win the FA Youth Cup. Most of the members of these Youth Cup winning teams were eventually promoted to the first XI and many later went on to play for their countries. One such youngster was a strapping lad called Duncan Edwards. Everyone who saw him said that Duncan had it all. He was strong, agile, fast and had a bullet of a shot. He was the complete footballer. It has been said that had Duncan not died in the Munich Air Disaster, he would have captained England and Bobby Moore would not have had a chance of even playing for England, let alone captaining the host nation to the 1966 World Cup. To read more about the Busby years from 1945-57 CLICK HERE

United won the league title in 1956 and it seemed that we could win it for the next few years. We entered European competition for the first time in 1956 and reached the semi final of the European Cup. In 1957, we were denied the first double of the 20th Century by a bad foul on goalkeeper Wood in the FA Cup final. After winning the league title again in 1957, we entered Europe again in 1957 and in February of 1958 played an away game in Belgrade against Red Star. On the journey home, the plane stopped to refuel in Munich. Snow was falling and the runway was icy. Twice the captain had to abort the takeoff. The third time, Captain Thain tried to get the plane off the ground but it overshot the runway and and the a wing clipped a house. United players Roger Byrne, Geoff Bent, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan all died in the wreckage. The others who perished that day were: United's trainer Tom Curry, coach Bert Whalley and club secretary Walter Crickmer; journalists Alf Clarke, Don Davies, George Follows, Tom Jackson, Archie Ledbrooke, Henry Rose, Frank Swift, Eric Thompson; supporter Willie Satinoff; travel agent Mr. B.P. Miklos; Captain K.G. Rayment (copilot) and Mr. W.T. Cable (steward). Duncan Edwards was critically injured and rushed to hospital. Although the giant fought for his life, the Gods loved him too much and two weeks later, he died from his injuries. To read more about Duncan Edwards CLICK HERE

Sir Matt lay in hospital for months while Jimmy Murphy rebuilt the team and against all odds managed to take the team to Wembley for the FA Cup Final. In that game, Harry Gregg was bundled into the net by Nat Lofthouse and once again, United were defeated at Wembley. A few players were bought and a few reserves and youths promoted to the first team but the next few years were tough for the club. Although we won the FA Cup in 1963, we were a really quite a poor team and were almost relegated in the same season. There were a few skillful players but the rest just made up the numbers. It all started to change in 1964 when an unknown seventeen year old called George Best was introduced to the world. The sixties were made for George and George was made for the sixties. He oozed class and was a real entertainer. He was the most exciting player ever to wear a United shirt and I was privileged to see him just before he retired.
United won the title in 1965 and entered the European Cup the following season. In the quarter final, they were drawn against the Portuguese side Benfica, who were hotly fancies to win the trophy. In the first leg at Old Trafford, United could only muster a 3-2 win. As Benfica were unbeaten at their home stadium, the Stadium of Light, United's chances were written off by most people. But George Best chose this game to showcase his emerging talent. George bagged two as United ran out 5-1 winners. The Portuguese crowd cheered United of the field and the Portuguese Press nicknamed Best 'El Beatle'.
To read an article about George Best written on his 50th birthday CLICK HERE

United were installed as favourites to win the European Cup but came unstuck against the unfancied Partizan Belgrade team in the semi final. But the League title came to United again in 1967 which gave us another shot at the elusive European Cup. This time there was no complacency. In the final at Wembley, Benfica. They wanted revenge for the 5-1 drubbing just 2 years earlier but United once again put them to the sword. This time, it was only 4-1 and it took 30 minutes of extra time as the scores were level at 1-1 after ninety minutes. Although it was undoubtedly a team effort, George Best showed his unique talent in scoring the second United goal just minutes into the extra period. Brian Kidd netted one on his 19th birthday and Bobby Charlton added one to the goal he had scored before extra time. It had taken Sir Matt over twenty years to win the grail.

Although we reached the semi final the next year, AC Milan beat us and went on to win the trophy. There then followed many barren years at Old Trafford. Wilf McGuinness was appointed manager when Sir Matt stepped down but he inherited an aging squad. He was also a young man and the same age as some of those players. He was ill-prepared for the task and lasted less than a year. His replacement was Frank O'Farrell who had done wonders at Leicester City. But he found United to be too big for him. Sir Matt cast a giant shadow and it was feared that no man could fill his shoes.

One character who may have had a chance though, was Tommy Docherty. After the dour O'Farrell, here was a man who was media friendly and spoke the same language as the fans on the terraces. He kept a poor team in the first division in his first season by buying a lot of players but we were relegated the next year. For the first time in almost forty years, United were in division two. In retrospect, it was a blessing as time was needed to rebuild. But to a budding fanatic in 1974, seeing Denis Law backheel a goal for City into the Scoreboard net with less than 10 minutes to go was traumatic. I was only 10 at the time and had gone to Old Trafford alone on the bus. With 10,000 others, I invaded the pitch with seven minutes remaining hoping to get the match abandoned. My excuse is that I knew no better. The scoreline stood though and the next season instead of trips to Liverpool, Leeds, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea, we were going to Oldham, York, Millwall, Bristol and Blackpool.

We roared back in style after just one season in division two and even beat City in the League Cup - always a bonus in those days. Our first season back, we finished third behind the dominant Liverpool and made it to Wembley for the FA Cup Final. Southampton were in the second division but paid us no respect and ran out 1-0 winners in a poor game. The next season though, we returned to Wembley with Liverpool making up the opposition. Thanks to a lucky Jimmy Greenhoff goal we took the Cup back to Manchester.

A month later, Docherty was sacked after it came to light that he was having an affair with the wife of the club's physiotherapist. We played some great football under the Doc and he brought Hill, Coppell and other class players to United. Dave Sexton replaced him and although we returned to Wembley two years later, we lost 3-2 to Arsenal in a game that was dull until 5 minutes from the end. Down 2-0, we pulled level but with almost the last kick of the game but Arsenal stole the winner. Sexton's era will not be remembered very fondly by most Reds as he failed to bring a trophy to Old Trafford.

Ron Atkinson followed Sexton into the hot seat and even though he brought the FA Cup to Old Trafford twice in three years (1983 v. Brighton and 1985 v. Everton) he could not take us to the pinnacle. The League championship was (and still is) the measure of the best team in the nation and seeing Liverpool winning it year after year was having a demoralising effect on our once great club. Sir Matt had set the standard and it was proving a millstone around the necks of all his successors.

Enter Sir Matt mark II. Better known as Sir Alex. When Ferguson was appointed in November 1986, most Reds felt that here was a man who could lead us out of the wilderness. He had broken the Celtic/Rangers stranglehold in Scotland with Aberdeen. In just eight years as their boss, he took them to the Scottish championship three times (1980, 1984 and 1985), four Scottish Cups (1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986), the Scottish League Cup (1983) and even a European trophy, the Cup Winners Cup in 1983. That was something United could only dream about. So was the Double of League and Cup he led them to in 1984. But precisely ten years later, he led United to the first of two Doubles in three seasons - an unprecedented achievement. The second one accomplished with a bunch of kids.

Unlike Sir Matt, Alex was never a great player but he had many of the other attributes that made Sir Matt into the genius that he was. A fanatical determination to succeed coupled with superb future planning have ensured that Alex will be remembered as one of the greatest managers of all time. With the benefit of the next few years, it is possible that Fergie will eclipse Sir Matt. But to put it all into perspective, Alex did not inherit a team without a ground, as Busby did. He also has not built three great teams over the course of almost 25 years.

Comparisons will always be drawn but that does neither man justice. Both won a special place in our hearts. Both truly remarkable men who made Manchester United the most glamorous team in the England, if not the World.


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