When one supports a club like Manchester United as passionately as we do, one has to be proud not only of the current make-up and performance of the team, club facilities and global reputation- as well as keep our fingers tightly croosed for the future- but also have an eye on the past. Why is Man Utd. the greatest club in the world? And why is it so esteemed in history, even amongst its rivals in the UK? Why are players like Ji Sung-Park so desperate to join Man Utd. and why is it still the most popular club in the world, shrouded in romance and sometimes even scandal? A major factor is its rich and varied history and Man United Blog is proud to present a series of posts covering this important element of Man Utd fan worship!! Here is part one, covering the years 1878-1909.
Manchester United Football Club was first formed in 1878, albeit under a different name – Newton Heath LYR (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway). Little suspecting the impact they were about to have on the national, even global game, the workers in the railway yard at Newton Heath indulged their passion for association football with games against other departments of the LYR or other railway companies. Indeed, when the Football League was formed in 1888, Newton Heath did not consider themselves good enough to become founder members alongside the likes of Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End. They waited instead until 1892 to make their entrance.
Financial problems plagued Newton Heath, and by the start of the twentieth century it seemed they were destined for extinction. The club was saved, however, by a local brewery owner, John Henry Davies. Legend has it that he learned of the club’s plight when he found a dog belonging to Newton Heath captain Harry Stafford. Davies decided to invest in the club, in return for some interest in running it. This led to a change of name and, after several alternatives including Manchester Central and Manchester Celtic were rejected, Manchester United was born in April/May 1902.
The next influential figure to arrive at United was Ernest Mangnall, who was appointed secretary in September 1903 but is widely acknowledged as being the club’s first manager. His side, including new signings like goalkeeper Harry Moger and forward Charlie Sagar, finished third in the Second Division in 1903/04 and again in 1904/05. The following season, 1905/06, was to prove one of the greatest in the early life of Manchester United. The half-back line of Dick Duckworth, Alex Bell and captain Charlie Roberts were instrumental in the side which reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, but more importantly finished as runners-up in the Second Division. Twelve years after being relegated, United reclaimed their place in the top flight.
To celebrate, Mangnall signed Billy Meredith from rivals Manchester City. Nicknamed the Welsh Wizard, Meredith had been implicated in a bribery scandal at City, and was due to be auctioned along with 17 other players. Mangnall made his move early, and acquired Meredith’s signature before the bidding began. The winger’s arrival proved to be inspirational – Meredith set up countless goals for Sandy Turnbull in 1907/08 when United won the Football League Championship for the first time. As champions, United played in the first ever Charity Shield in 1908. They duly won the trophy, beating FA Cup winners QPR 4-0 thanks to a hat-trick from Sandy’s namesake, Jimmy Turnbull. The third trophy to be added to the club’s honours board was the FA Cup, at the end of a tremendous run in 1909. United beat Bristol City 1-0 in the final, thanks to Sandy Turnbull’s goal.
And so the first chapter in the club’s history ended on a high note, with the promise of more to come in the next, including a move to a certain new stadium…..?
A good place to buy a book on Man Utd’s history is at the dedicated Ji Sung-Park Online Shop.