Manchester United Football Club
English football club, based at Old Trafford in Greater Manchester. The club has had the highest average attendance in England for the majority of the past fifty seasons, and is one of the most successful clubs in England, having won the Football League fifteen times and the European Cup twice. The club is regarded as being among the traditional European superpowers, consistently competing for Europe's highest club competition.
Full name Manchester United
Nickname(s) The Red Devils
Founded 1878, as Newton Heath LYR F.C.
Ground Old Trafford, Trafford, Greater Manchester
Capacity 68,936 (expansion to 76,000 in progress expected completion: 2006)
Chairman Manager Sir Alex Ferguson
League FA Premier League
2005-06 Premier League, 3rd
The club was formed as Newton Heath LYR F.C. in 1878 as the works team of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Heath. In 1902 its name was changed to "Manchester United". The club is also known as "Man United" or simply "United"; the nickname "Man U", considered derogatory by some fans, is frequently used by the press and fans of rival clubs. Manchester United is unusual in that it is not based in the City of Manchester itself, but in the borough of Trafford, between the cities of Salford and Manchester.
In the 1990s Manchester United achieved, under manager Sir Alex Ferguson, a level of dominance in domestic competition unseen in England since the Liverpool sides of the 1970s and early 1980s, culminating in the club winning an unprecedented treble of the English Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. This treble season marked a peak in the fortunes of Manchester United, however, the team is still widely considered one of the driving forces of English football.
On May 12, 2005, the United States businessman Malcolm Glazer acquired a controlling interest in the club in a takeover valuing it at approximately £800 million ($1.47 billion). On May 16, Glazer increased his share to the 75% necessary to delist the club from the Stock Exchange, taking it private again, and announced his intention to do so within 20 days. On 7 June he appointed his sons Joel, Avram, and Bryan as non-executive directors, at the same time that Sir Roy Gardner resigned the chairmanship, and two other non-executive directors resigned.
United have had four successful eras, 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 earliest known film of Manchester United is the 2–0 victory at Burnley on 6 December 1902, filmed by Mitchell and Kenyon.
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.
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 ever treble, which United 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's team featured 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, however, 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 (1986-1999)
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, United struggled badly throughout 1989, with many of Ferguson's signings not reaching the expectations of the fans. 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, but 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. Meanwhile in 1991 the club had floated on the London Stock Exchange with a valuation of £18 million, thus bringing its finances into the public eye as never before.
The arrival of Eric Cantona in November 1992 provided the crucial spark for 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 jumping into the crowd and assulting a Crystal Palace supporter. 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, but the new players, all of whom went on to play for England, did surprisingly well and United won the double again in 1995-96.
They won the league in 1997, and Eric Cantona announced his retirement 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 double winning 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.
After the treble (1999-present)
United won the league by significant margins in 2000 and 2001 but the press saw these seasons as failures as they failed to regain the European Cup. Ferguson adopted more defensive tactics 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 dropped significantly when Rio Ferdinand received an eight month suspension for missing a drugs test.
The 2004-05 season was characterised by a failure to score goals, and United finished the season in third place. Off the pitch, the main story was the possibility of the club being taken over and at the end of the season, Malcolm Glazer acquired a controlling interest in the club.
The Malcolm Glazer takeover
On 14 June 2005, Malcolm Glazer successfully increased his share in the club to 97.3%, sufficient enough for full control, as well as de-listing it from public stock market.
On June 22, 2005, he formally delisted the club from public stock market exchange.
Some United fans have expressed concern that in the fallout from the Glazer takeover, which left the club £265 million in debt, Manchester United will no longer have the money to compete in the transfer market. The Glazers have promised that Sir Alex Ferguson would still be able to purchase "big-name" players; however, Ferguson's signings have been uncharacteristically restrained since the takeover.
A small group of supporters formed a new club called FC United of Manchester to protest the takeover. The new club will play in the North West Counties League Second Division in the 2005/06 season.
Before the Second World War, few English football supporters travelled to away games because of the time and cost. As United and City played home matches on alternate Saturdays, many Mancunians would watch United one week and City the next. After the war, a stronger rivalry developed and it became more common for a supporter to choose one team to follow exclusively.
When United won the league in 1956, they had the highest average home attendance in the league, a record that had been held by Newcastle for the previous few years. Following the Munich air disaster in 1958, more people from outside Manchester began to support United and, as travel became quicker and cheaper, many started to go to matches. This swelled United’s support and is one reason why United have had the highest league attendances in English football for almost every season since then, even as a second division side in 1974-75.
Although it is often claimed that few Mancunians support United (similar claims are made about Juventus and Bayern Munich), the Manchester Evening News has conducted several surveys asking Mancunians which team they support and United have topped each poll, on one occasion getting 66% of the vote. The club estimates they have 75 million fans around the world, with 40 million fans in Asia alone. In the late 1990s and early part of the 2000s, an increasing source of concern for many United supporters was the possibility of the club being taken over. The supporters’ group IMUSA (Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association) were extremely active in opposing a proposed takeover by Rupert Murdoch in 1999. Another pressure group, Shareholders United Against Murdoch (now Shareholders United) was formed at around this time to encourage supporters to buy shares in the club, partly to enable supporters to have a greater say in the issues that concern them, such as ticket prices and allocation, and partly to reduce the risk of an unwanted party buying enough shares to take over the club. However, this scheme failed to prevent Malcolm Glazer from becoming the majority shareholder in the club.
Although the full effects of Glazer's takeover on the club's support are not yet known, the club was compelled to put tickets on general sale for the club's Premiership home opener against Aston Villa - the first time in years the club has had to do that for a league match. It should be noted that several other Premiership clubs have also reported reduced attendance and/or trouble selling out their grounds.
Performance in the top division
Manchester United have spent 79 seasons in the national top flight (only Everton, Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Arsenal have more seasons at top level), finishing in these positions:
United are one of three clubs (the others being Liverpool and Arsenal) that have finished first more often than in any other one table spot in the top division.
Famous Manchester United Fans