Connect with us

English Premier League

Manchester United: Triumphs, tragedy and trophies

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s deal to buy a 25 percent stake in Manchester United is the latest twist in the remarkable story of one of the world’s most famous football clubs.

AFP Sport looks at the moments that helped make United a global phenomenon.

A legend is born

Although the world now knows the Old Trafford giants as Manchester United and associates the team with their vivid red shirts, their story began in different colours.

Railway workers founded Newton Heath in 1878 and, wearing “white shirts with blue cord”, they won their first recorded match 6-0 against Bolton’s reserves.

Served with a winding-up order after financial issues in 1902, Newton Heath, who wore a green-and-gold kit by then, were taken over by a group including local businessman John Henry Davies.

Renamed Manchester United and playing in red shirts, the first of the club’s English record of 20 top-flight titles was secured in 1908.

Busby Babes and Munich disaster

Matt Busby would provide the impetus for United’s first truly dominant era.

The Scot was appointed as manager in 1945 and reigned for the next 24 years, revitalising United with an infusion of homegrown talent.

His young “Busby Babes” won successive titles in 1956 and 1957 and United become the first English team to compete in the European Cup.

But disaster struck in 1958 when eight United players, including the great Duncan Edwards, died after a plane crash at Munich airport on the way home from a European Cup quarter-final against Red Star Belgrade.

Busby spent weeks in hospital before eventually returning to build another dashing young team from the ashes of the Munich tragedy.

‘Holy Trinity’

George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law formed the attacking triumvirate that spearheaded Busby’s second golden generation.

Best was the maverick genius whose pop star looks and dazzling skills made him famous beyond the world of football.

United won the English title twice before their defining moment in 1968, when they beat Benfica 4-1 to become the first English team to win the European Cup.

It was a cathartic victory for Busby, who wept on the Wembley pitch a decade after the Munich disaster.

“The moment when Bobby took the cup it cleansed me. It eased the pain of the guilt of going into Europe. It was my justification,” Busby said.

The Dark Ages

Busby’s decision to step down in 1969 signalled the end of an era for United and the decline was so steep that United crashed into the Second Division in 1974.

They won promotion at the first attempt and lifted the FA Cup in 1977, 1983 and 1985.

But United never came close to regaining the title during a troubled period as their arch-rivals Liverpool reigned supreme.

Fergie effect

United were rescued from their wilderness years by Alex Ferguson, who arrived from Aberdeen to manage the under-performing club in 1986.

With 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, during his 26-year reign, Ferguson fulfilled his aim of “knocking Liverpool off their perch” in spectacular fashion.

The Scot endured a difficult start that included calls for his sacking but United won the FA Cup in 1990, buying him time to fashion a vibrant side that secured the club’s first league title for 26 years in 1993.

Inspired by the flamboyant Eric Cantona, the club won their first league and FA Cup double a year later.

Ferguson’s greatest moment came in 1999, when United became the first English club to win the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup in the same season.

It was United’s ‘Class of ‘92’ — the storied youth academy crop including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers — who were the treble winners’ driving force.

Showing the never-say-die spirit that epitomised United under Ferguson, they scored twice in the final minutes against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

Ferguson, who also masterminded Champions League glory for United in 2008, responded to the incredible triumph against Bayern by exclaiming: “Football, bloody hell”.

It was a fitting phrase for a club that provides unforgettable drama on and off the pitch.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


World Cup News


More in English Premier League