In 1878 at Newton Heath, Manchester, once farmlands that turned to the industrial revolution in keeping with the times, railway men and like many formed their own football teams. Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway FC or Newton Heath L&YR FC was the beginning of a rather special moment in English football history. Their first playing ground, which in fact was nothing more than a field on North Road and shared with local cricketers before acquiring a more stadium like venue 15 years later at Baker Street, Clayton. 1 year prior to this, the club had signed up for the Football League and had amended their name to the shorter, Newton Heath FC. What was adverse for the club in 1902 and very much could have been the end was the debt they seemed to accumulate. It is believed that bailiffs closed the Baker Street ground until the some of £2.500 was paid. There is a congenial story connected to this but how factual it is remains unclear. The club captain, Harry Stafford, apparently attending a fundraiser with his St. Bernard dog was asked by a gentleman named John Henry Davies, a wealthy brewery owner, if he cared to sell the animal. Stafford refused the offer but then took the conversation to the subject of Newton Heath and the problems it faced. Regardless of how true this is, what is true is Davies did become chairmen after making a large financial donation. Davis changed the colours of Newton Heath from green and gold to red and white and furthermore decided on a new name, Manchester United FC.
The clubs first few seasons were spent in Division 2 but they always managed to finish in the tables top half. In 1904 and for a record transfer fee at the time for United they signed the football gifts of Charlie Roberts for £750 from Grimsby Town. Roberts did have an impact on the club when in the following season they finished second and got their promotion to Division 1. Other players United signed were detrimental to Manchester City been punished for over paying players. Many players were told they could never play for City again. This is where Manchester United seized the moment, buying players like Sandy Turnbull and Billy Meredith. In 1907/08 season United finished 9 points clear of Aston Villa in the tables to win the League. The next season saw the club lift two trophies – Charity Shield and later but bigger the FA Cup. They did lift the League title again in 1910/11 season but this is where the club just lost some of its finesse. United had one last move to make during this time, to their final home – Old Trafford.
In 1945, United's manager's role became available and who better to fill that slot than the football gifts of Alexander Matthew Busby better known as Matt Busby, who at the time was assistant coach at Liverpool FC. Busby was a Scottish football player who incidentally also played for United's biggest rivals Manchester City. Before Busby accepted the job, he did request some concessions from the board at Manchester to minimise interference from them and several were granted which consisted of, Busby choosing the squad, training sessions and the signing of new players. Oddly, Busby first signing was ex football player Jimmy Murphy but his role would not be on the pitch but as Busby's assistant. This came about when Busby heard Murphy giving a speech on football to a group of soldiers and was obviously impressed enough to offer him a job. Busby brought to the club great players and local lads like Jack Rowley and Stan Pearson who helped United finish 2nd in the tables for 3 years on the trot. In 1948 Busby, lead United to FA Cup victory beating Blackpool 4-2. One of Busby's successful guiding principles was to get more youth players on board and even though this took time to employ, the rewards were massively beneficial in the long run. Busby's babes as they came to be known consisted of fantastic talents such as Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton and Roger Byrne.
In 1958, a catastrophe accident shook not just football but also the world when flight 609 crashed during take off with 44 people onboard. In total 23 people lost, their life's and 8 of these were members of the Busby babes. Duncan Edwards was one of the fatalities; he died 14 days later in hospital through his injuries. Many hold the belief that if given the chance, Edwards would have been the best footballer in the world. The other players along with him were Liam Whelan , Tommy Taylor , David Pegg , Mark Jones , Eddie Colman , Roger Byrne and Geoff Bent.
When Busby returned to the club, he had to assemble a new squad to try and recreate the desperately missed skills of those individuals that had now gone. Having gone through this ordeal most managers would not have had the resolute to of stepped inside another dressing room but with Busby the show must gone on. His task started with signings such as Pat Crerand, Denis Law and a young Irish lad named George Best. The latter was discovered by United scout Bob Bishop when best was 15 years old. Bishop sent Busby a telegram from Northern Ireland, in it, it read,” I think I've found you a genius.” Football gifts like Best do not come along to often. He had it all in terms of pace, skill in his ability to out manoeuvre the finest defenders – one way then another with the ball glue liked to his feet; a joy to watch. The results that Busby wished for were not so imminent in returning but they did finally reveal a light at the end of the tunnel in 1963 when United won the FA Cup beating Leicester City 3-1. Then in 1965 and 1967, Busby's United won the League Title and then the European Cup in 1968, making the United the first English club to win the competition. Busby had accomplished what he had set out to do and in 1969, he stepped down as United's manager. He did however return for a short spell but that was the last whistle for him. Currently Matt Busby is still the longest serving manager of Manchester United FC.
In the late 60's and 70's with many of the clubs top players leaving, saw that once bright light of United now starting to fade. United saw Several managers including Wilf McGuinness, Frank O'Farrell, Tommy Docherty axed, and Dave sexton who became another statistic before been sacked by the board. 1981 the colourful Ron Atkinson was given the chance to shine at Old Trafford and he did just that. Getting football gifts like Bryan Robson on board, one of the best midfielder's English football has seen plus Paul McGrath and Gordon Strachan, Atkinson soon established a new stronger United that had disappeared for a long time. Within 3 years, the club was back on form, winning the FA Cup in 1983 and 1985 and were front-runners to take the League title in 1985/86 season. What happened though was the complete opposite as they ended the season unexpectedly in 4th position. The season after could not have got much worse but it did and United found themselves in the bottom half of the tables and forever drifting closer to relegation. The board had seen enough and Atkinson was promptly replaced by Alex Ferguson from Aberdeen in 1986.
If Ferguson was looking for the best of starts out of the blocks, managing United, he certainly did not get it. For the first 3½ years, Ferguson had produced nothing that special and early on in the 1990 season, the feeling at Old Trafford was that a dismissal was looming. The sudden change in attitude came when they beat Crystal Palace 1-0 in the FA Cup final at Wembley then in 1991 the squad brought back to Old Trafford the Cup Winners Cup, beating Barcelona 2-1. They had another invite to Wembley in 1992 for the League Cup final against Nottingham Forrest and walked away the winners with a 1-0 victory.
Behind the scenes, the club needed to generate cash and the board decided to float United on the stock market, which raised £47 million. This extra money paved the way for signings such as Leeds United, Frenchman Eric Cantona who had great charisma on the pitch and the awesome talented, football gifts of Danish keeper Peter Schmeichel. Later came the ear-splitting Roy Keane from Nottingham Forrest.
In 1995, saw a British record transfer fee of £6 million for Newcastle United's Andy Cole. United wrote one in the history books by becoming the first English club to have won the Double twice. More youth players were entering the squad like David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers with other players such as Paul Ince and Mark Hughes been sold on to various clubs.
No English club had ever won the treble but United changed that and rewrote the history pages yet again in the 1998/99 season. This period is probably noted as the clubs pinnacle point in terms of success. First, they wrapped up the Premier League title then with goals from Scholes and Sheringham they added the FA Cup beating Newcastle United 2-0. To complete the treble they were up against FC Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final. The match was played at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. Referee for the game was, Pierluigi Collina, he later revealed, it to be of his most unforgettable matches he had refereed. Throughout the game, United trailed 1-0 and it appeared that the ending was going to be doom and gloom for the English club. Subsequently injury time was added and to the amazement of all watching, United miraculously scored two goals to beat Munich and lift the trophy. This game is considered to be of the best comebacks in the game of football. The Munich players could do nothing but, and understandably sob on the pitch. Not many clubs in the world could have pulled that out of the bag at exactly the right time. Later and deservingly so, Ferguson was knighted for his services to the game of football.
After that triumph, United were always going to struggle to go one better than the treble. Even with the club topping the Premier League in 2000 and 2001 the silverware just wasn't flowing. In 2004 they did knockout League Champions Arsenal from the FA Cup and went on to take the trophy beating Millwall 3-0 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff with two goals from Ruud Van Nistelrooy and one from Cristiano Ronaldo. The club paid £12.24 million for the Portuguese Ronaldo in 2003 after Ferguson became aware of his football gifts. Ronaldo, arrogant and cocky at times was an instant sensation at United with his ability and skill. During this time, American businessman Malcolm Glazer at the despair of fans, brought out shareholders of the club and by 2005 took full control over United, appointing his sons as directors.
The following 2007 season, United were much stronger playing a more attacking game one that they were accustomed to. There were I hopes that the club were on their way to winning another treble, however, United lost to Milan in the semi-finals of the Champions League. The FA Cup was still alive for United and they were favourites to win it but Chelsea denied them that trophy at the new Wembley Stadium beating them 1-0 in extra time.
2008 United had no such rejections when a win over Wigan Athletic crowned them League Champions then defeating Chelsea on penalties gave them their third European Cup. Ryan Giggs was also honoured by breaking Bobby Charlton's record in making 759 appearances for the club. In addition, they also won the FA Community Shield then in December 2008; the FIFA Club World Cup trophy was added thanks to Wayne Rooney scoring the only goal. A couple of months later in 2009 United were League Cup champions and then in May won their 11th Premier League title.
In 2009, Ferguson signed Michael Owen, Gabriel Obertan and Antonio Valencia but in the process had to let go of the football gifts and best footballer in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo for a record transfer fee of £80 million to Real Madrid.