Saturday, October 22, 2005

Manchester United History

Manchester Utd. have had four successful big stages in it's history, under J. Ernest Mangnall in the 1900s, in the 1950s and 1960s under Sir Matt Busby, and in the 90s to present under Sir Alex Ferguson. Apart from these successes, the most significant event in the club's history is the Munich air disaster in which eight of the club's players died.

The club's most successful season was 1998-99, when they became the first and only team to win the Treble - winning the FA Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League in the same season.

Early years (1878-1945)

The club were formed as Newton Heath (Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway) (Newton Heath (L&YR) for short) by a group of Manchester railway workers in 1878. The name was soon shortened to Newton Heath. They were founder members of the Football Alliance in 1889 and joined the Football League in 1892 when it merged with the Football Alliance.

The club faced bankruptcy in 1902 and was rescued by J.H.Davies who paid off the club's debts and changed the name to Manchester United, and changed the team's colours from gold and green to red and white. They won the league in 1908 and, with financial assistance from Davies, moved to a new stadium at Old Trafford in 1909.

The team struggled between the first and second world wars, and by time the second world war began they were £70,000 in debt.


The Busby years (1945-1969)

Matt Busby was appointed manager in 1945 and took a then-unheard of approach to his job, joining the players for training as well as performing administrative tasks. He was immediately successful, with the club finishing second in the league in 1947 and winning the F.A. Cup in 1948.

He adopted a policy of bringing in players from the youth team whenever possible, and the team won the league in 1956 with an average age of only 22. The following season, they won the league again and reached the F.A. Cup final, losing to Aston Villa. They also became the first English team to compete in the European Cup, and reached the semi-final.

Tragedy struck the following season, when the plane carrying the team home from a European Cup match crashed on take off at a refuelling stop in Munich. The Munich air disaster of 6 February, 1958 claimed the lives of eight players and another fifteen passengers. There was talk of the club folding but, with Jimmy Murphy taking over as manager while Matt Busby recovered from his injuries, the club continued playing with a makeshift side. They somehow reached the F.A. Cup final again, where they lost to Bolton.

Busby rebuilt the team throughout the early 1960s, signing players such as Denis Law and Pat Crerand. The team won the F.A. Cup in 1963, then won the league in 1965 and 1967 and the European Cup in 1968. This team was notable for containing three European Footballers of the Year: Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best. Busby resigned as manager in 1969 and was replaced by the reserve-team coach and former United player Wilf McGuinness.


1969-1986

United struggled to replace Busby, and the team struggled under Wilf McGuinness and Frank O'Farrell before Tommy Docherty became manager at the end of 1972. Docherty, or 'the Doc', saved United from relegation that season but United were relegated in 1974. The team won promotion at the first attempt and reached the F.A. Cup final in 1976, but were beaten by Southampton. They reached the final again in 1977, beating Liverpool and preventing their opponents from completing the first domestic treble, which they would go on to win in 1999. In spite of this success, and his popularity with the supporters, Docherty was sacked soon after the final when he was found to have had an affair with a colleague's wife.

Dave Sexton replaced Docherty as manager in the summer of 1977, and made the team play in a more defensive formation. This style was unpopular with supporters, who were used to the attacking football preferred by Docherty and Busby, and after failing to win a trophy Sexton was sacked in 1981.

He was replaced by the flamboyant Ron Atkinson who immediately broke the British record transfer fee to sign Bryan Robson from West Brom. Atkinson built an exciting team with new signings such as Jesper Olsen and Gordon Strachan playing alongside the former youth-team players Norman Whiteside and Mark Hughes. United won the F.A. Cup in 1983 and 1985 and were overwhelming favourites to win the league in the 1985-86 season after winning their first ten league games, opening a ten point gap over their rivals as early as October. The team's form collapsed, howver, and United finished the season in fourth place. The poor form continued into the following season, and with United on the edge of the First Division's relegation zone, Atkinson was sacked.


The Alex Ferguson Era (1986-present)

Alex Ferguson replaced Atkinson and guided the club to an 11th place finish. The following season (1987-88), United finished second, with Brian McClair becoming the first United player since George Best to score twenty league goals in a season.

However, things started to go horribly wrong. Many of Ferguson's signings did not reach the expectations of the fans and United struggled badly throughout 1989. There was speculation that Ferguson would be sacked at the beginning of 1990 but a win in the third round of the F.A. Cup kept the season alive and United went on to win the competition.

United won the the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1990-91, beating that season's Spanish champions Barcelona in the final. The following season was a disaster for United, though, as a late season slump saw them miss out on the league to rivals Leeds United.

The signing of Eric Cantona in November 1992 inspired United, and they finished the 1992-93 season as Champions for the first time since 1967. They won the double [the league and the F.A. Cup] for the first time the following season, but legendary manager and club president Matt Busby died that year, on 20 January, 1994.

In 1994-95, Cantona received an eight month suspension for kicking a supporter, and losing their last two matches left United as runners-up in both the league and F.A. Cup. Ferguson then outraged the supporters by selling key players and replacing them with players from the club's youth team, the so-called 'Fergie's Fledglings', but the new players did surprisingly well. United won the double again in 1995-96.

They won the league again in 1997, but Cantona once again shocked the fans by retiring from football at the age of 30, several years earlier than most players. They started the following season (1997-98) well but their results were affected by a series of injuries and they finished the season in second place, well behind the champions Arsenal.

1998-99 was the most successful season in the club's history as United became the first English team to win the Treble - the league, the F.A. Cup and the Champions League in the same season. The final was especially exciting as United were trailing 1-0 with one minute to go, but two goals in stoppage time, including a flick from Ole Gunnar Solskjær, gave them a win over Bayern Munich. Ferguson was knighted for his contributions to British football as a result

United won the league by enormous margins in 2000 and 2001 but the press saw these seasons as failures as they failed to regain the European Cup. Ferguson adopted a more defensive style to make United harder to beat in Europe but it was not a success and United finished the season in third place in 2002. They regained the league the following season (2002-03) and started the following season well, but their form nosedived as Rio Ferdinand received an eight month suspension for missing a drugs test.

In spite of spending millions on the forwards Alan Smith, Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha, the 2004-05 season was characterised by a failure to score goals. A series of 0-0 draws left United behind Arsenal and Chelsea early on and they finished the season in third place. The disappointment was increased as United became the first team to lose an F.A. Cup final on penalties, with Arsenal winning after the match had finished 0-0. The success of United's bitter rivals Liverpool in unexpectedly winning the European Cup for the fifth time simply increased the frustration. Off the pitch, the main story was the possiblility of the club being taken over and at the end of the season, the American Malcolm Glazer acquired a controlling interest in the club.

Edwin van der Sar became the first purchase in the off-season as the club looked for a new goalkeeper after releasing Roy Carroll and Ricardo. No goalkeepers had been convincing ever since Peter Schmeichel left the club. Midfielder Park Ji-Sung became the first Korean player to play for United when he signed from PSV Eindhoven for an undisclosed fee.