Man United Blog is proud to bring you its second part of a trip down memory lane, covering the period 1910-1919.
The words Old Trafford entered football folklore for the first time during the 1909/10 season.
The land on which the stadium was built was bought by the Manchester Brewery Company (John Henry Davies) and leased to the club. Davies himself paid for the building work, which commenced in 1908 under the supervision of the renowned architect Archibald Leitch. By 1910, the club had moved lock, stock and barrel from their old home of Bank Street. United’s first fixture at Old Trafford was played on 19 February 1910. The new hosts lost 4-3 to their first visitors Liverpool, but the stadium was successful in accommodating an 80,000 capacity crowd. Two days previously, the old wooden stand at Bank Street had been blown down by strong winds – further evidence, perhaps, that United were suited to and needed their new home.
Indeed, United were crowned League Champions for the second time in their history, at the end of their first full season at Old Trafford – 1910/1911. They clinched the title at home on the final day of the season, beating Sunderland 5-1 with Harold Halse grabbing two of the goals. Halse wasn’t the only goalscoring hero of that second Championship season. Another was the swashbuckling forward Enoch ?Knocker? West, who scored 19 goals during the campaign. United also won the Charity Shield, beating Swindon Town 8-4, with Halse grabbing a double hat-trick. Many current observers see some similiarities in the reputed style (and rare footage) of Halse and Man Utd.’s current South Korean star: Ji Sung-Park
Despite such feats, United could not keep up their winning run and in 1911/12, the defending champions finished disappointingly in thirteenth place. Secretary-manager Ernest Mangnall bore the brunt of the criticism, and resigned to join United’s neighbours and rivals Manchester City. The search for Mangnall’s successor finished at the door of JJ Bentley, the president of the Football League. Under his guidance the Reds claimed fourth place in the League at the end of the 1912/13 season. The 1913/14 season was a period of transition, with Charlie Roberts and Alex Bell sold to Oldham and Blackburn respectively. United finished in 14th, with West finishing as top scorer for the third season in a row. The 1914/15 campaign was notable for a change of management – in December 1914, the roles of secretary and team manager were separated for the first time. Bentley became full-time secretary and John Robson was appointed to look after and select the team.
Robson’s team was a shadow of the one which had performed so well in the previous decade, as only George Stacey, Billy Meredith, Sandy Turnbull and George Wall remained from the 1909 FA Cup-winning side. Not surprisingly, the club struggled, only escaping relegation by a single point. To rub salt into the wound, Mangnall’s Manchester City side finished in fifth place, thirteen places above United. Before United could form a plan for recovery, the outbreak of the First World War put football firmly to the back of people’s minds. The Football League was suspended, and clubs resorted to playing in regional competitions. United played in the Lancashire Prinicipal and Subsidiary Tournaments for four seasons, but this was a less than successful diversion, the misery compounded by the fact that two of the club’s players were found guilty of match fixing. Enoch West was banned for life as was Sandy Turnbull, who joined the Footballers’ Battalion to help Britain’s war effort.
Tragically Turnbull was killed during a battle in France in May 1917, to leave Manchester United without another of their early century heroes for their return to league football in 1919/20. This period of the impact of World War One on Manchester United football club is covered in some fine books which you can find at The Ji Sung-Park Online Shop.