Man United Blog brings you the fourth part of its look at MU History, covering the period 1930-1939.
The decline that had started in the 1920’s continued at the outset of the 1930’s. United finished 17th in 1929/30, to fill their fans with dread. Their fears were realised in the next season, when United made the worst start in their history by losing their first twelve league matches in a row. The dozen defeats included back-to-back thrashings at Old Trafford, 6-0 by Huddersfield Town and then 7-4 by Newcastle United. The season was into November before Herbert Bamlett’s team took their first points, by winning 2-0 at home to Birmingham City.
United eventually lost 27 of their 42 league matches in 1930/31, conceding 115 goals. Their relegation led to Bamlett bowing out, and secretary Walter Crickmer taking charge of team affairs. There was to be no immediate improvement, however. United lost their opening two matches of 1931/32, in the Second Division.
The patience of the supporters was being severely tested, and many of them did not hang around – only 3,507 turned up for the opening match. As the season went on, the situation deteriorated. By December, there was no money to pay the players wages. Bankruptcy was a real threat. The club’s saviour came in the shape of James Gibson, a manufacturer of army uniforms. He invested ?30,000, paid the players and got the club back on track. He appointed a new manager, Scott Duncan, who was given money to spend. However, he did not make the most of it. A dreadful run under Duncan in 1933/34 took United to the brink of being relegated into the Third Division for the first time in the club?s history. Survival was only secured on the last day of the season, when they won 2-0 with goals from Tom Manley and Jack Cape to send their opponents, Millwall, down instead. In that same week, Manchester City had won the FA Cup, with a man named Matt Busby in their side.
United finished the 1934/35 season in fifth place, and then in 1935/36 claimed their first silverware of the decade. Unbeaten during the last 19 games of the campaign, they secured the Second Division Championship with a 3-2 win over Bury at Gigg Lane, thanks to goals from Manley and George Mutch. Their end-of-season form in the Second Division suggested United would do well on their return to the First, but by Christmas they had only won four matches, including one on Christmas Day itself! Only ten wins in the whole season meant relegation, with City again providing stark contrast as the League Champions. The relegated United team included Walter Winterbottom, who would later be knighted after managing England for 16 years.
The yo-yoing continued as United were promoted again the next season, 1937/38, as runners-up to Aston Villa. Scott Duncan could only claim some of the credit, as he left the club in November 1937 to become manager of Ipswich Town. Walter Crickmer again stepped into the breach as United’s caretaker manager. The highlight of Duncan and Crickmer’s season was the discovery of Johnny Carey, who would later be recognised as one of the greatest full-backs in football history. Playing 32 games and scoring six goals, Carey helped United to stay up this time, finishing 14th, while City took their turn to be relegated! There was no time to gloat, however – the outbreak of war put the Football League on hold again, for several years.
This period on Manchester United football club is covered in some excellent books which you can find at The Ji Sung-Park Online Shop. You can also but some wonderful memorabilia through one of our sponsors: Kitbag