19th February a momentous day for Manchester United through the ages

1910: First official game was played at the new home of Manchester United - Old Trafford. Gracious host lost to Liverpool 3-4 who would become their perennial rivals from 60's. Sandy Turnbull scored the first goal at the new home for United. The decision to move from Bank street was backed by club chairman John Henry Davies who hired best stadium architect Archibald Leitch to build a brand new home befitting the league winners of 1907. The stadium also hosted two FA Cup finals including the 1911 replay and 1915 khaki cup final cementing its place as one of the finest and largest stadiums in England since. United finished fifth in their first season at Old Trafford and in the next won the league championship in 1910-11 for the second time in their history. 110 year celebration on the clubs official website. Guests received an invitation to the official opening of Old Trafford

"The President (Mr J H Davies) and Directors of the Manchester United Football Club ask your acceptance of enclosed, and extend a cordial invitation to attend the opening match on Saturday next.

The ground is situated at Old Trafford near the County Cricket Ground, and can be reached by three tram routes: Deansgate, Piccadilly and St Peter's Square.


The ground when completed will hold over 100,000 people. The present Stand will accommodate 12,000 people seated."

Due to cost overruns the capacity was limited to 80,000. Since the days of Busby Babes in late 50's United have best attendance record of any club in England and the farsightedness of John Henry Davies makes the club self-sufficient and the envy of every multi-billionaire investors around the world.

1939: Birth of Paddy Crerand whose assists were critical in many of the goals in the 60's and was the last piece of jigsaw that led United back to its glory days starting with FA Cup win in '63 within months of him joining the Red Devils. "If Pat Crerand plays well, United play well." was the famous adage to describe his influence over the team.

1945: Sir Matt Busby signs the contract to become the manager of Manchester United who were without any full time manager since Scott Duncan stood down in November 1937. He was the first tracksuit manager in England aged just 34. After the Ernest Mangnall era United had to wait 41 years to win their next league title in '52. But Busby laid the foundations of a modern football club based on progressing youth through the ranks and attacking flair that would forever be its DNA. Sir Alex Ferguson famously said that all he had to do was to copy the Busby blueprint. He took over the reins in October after being demobilized at the end of second world war where he served as company sergeant-major instructor.

1958: The first match after the Munich air disaster was held at Old Trafford wherein they faced Sheffield Wednesday in the postponed tie. Manchester United did not have enough fit players to take the field so the printed program notes had blanks instead of names in the team sheet highlights the uncertainty till the kick-off. It was left to the inspirational Jimmy Murphy to continue the show with full backing from Matt Busby still in hospital and club chairman Harold Hardman. Murphy signed Ernie Taylor although 33 but the man behind Blackpool's '53 FA Cup final and Stan Crowther from Aston Villa who had originally agreed to travel to Manchester to watch this FA Cup tie to decide for himself but four hours before kick-off Murphy's words convinced him to not only sign but play on the same day! Thousands of people stood outside Old Trafford even as 59,848 filled the stadium to show their solidarity with the club in its darkest hour. The team included five reserve players and Brennan one among them scored twice in that game while managing to score only 4  more in twelve further years at United: Gregg, Foulkes (C), Greaves, Goodwin, Cope, Crowther, Webster, Taylor, Dawson, Pearson, Brennan. United had struggled against them earlier in the season losing 1-2 but on this emotionally charged occasion ran out 3-0 winners.

1964: Thumped Bolton Wanderers 5-0 at home with goals from Best(2), Herd(2) and Charlton to set off on a eight match unbeaten run that made United challenge Liverpool and settle for second position after losing the their head-to-head match 0-3 at Anfield. Sir Denis Law would score 46 goals that season his best tally to win the Ballon d'Or. Next season United would go one better to win the league for fourth time under Sir Matt Busby.

1972: Lost to Leeds United 1-5 at Elland Road the biggest defeat of the season in the middle of seven match losing streak that dragged United who were the league leaders till Christmas in the first year of Frank O'Farrell to finally finish eight. This defeat prompted United to sign Martin Buchan the Aberdeen captain for club record fee of 120,000 pounds just ten days later. Buchan became the first captain to win both Scottish and English FA Cups and clearly the clubs most distinguished player of the 70's.

1997: Won 2-1 away at Arsenal their direct rivals without the suspended Eric Cantona who would retire at the end of the season. This match gave a glimpse of life without the clubs iconic No 7 player Eric Cantona perhaps the most influential in the last 30 years. New signing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored in this crucial game and topped the scoring chart with 19 goals in all competitions. David Beckham won the young player of the year award and the succeeded the Frenchman to the No 7 jersey and while experienced Teddy Sheringham was now the go to man to provide the winning edge.

2003: Beat Juventus at home 2-1 in the group D fixture of the Champions' League to top the group with goals from Wes Brown and Ruud van Nistelrooy. This raised the expectations of United reaching the final which would be held at Old Trafford. United lost to Real Madrid 5-6 in a thriller of a quarter-final tie which set off the rumours of Beckham joining Madrid amid Ferguson kicking a shoe accidentally at him. Real lost to Juventus in semi who lost to AC Milan in the all Italian finals that was a bore to watch.

Solskjaer under renewed focus as United aim to halt three match barren run

Manchester United have not only failed to win their last three English Premier League matches but also failed to score; 0-2 at Anfield, 0-2 to Burnley and 0-0 to Wolves both at Old Trafford. As a result they have not been able to close to the gap on the fourth position presently held by their next opponents Chelsea whom they face on Monday night. Ten points separate ten chasing teams below the fourth spot and based on worst start since 1989 United are certainly not the favourites to clinch it.

Two different stories emerged recently linked with Molde, Solskjaer's former club. The desperation to land a striker meant Solskjaer turned to his own ex-business partner, friend and agent Jim Solbakken whose associates deal with both Joshua King and Odion Ighalo. United had signed just one player in keeper Anders Lindegaard from Solbakken under Sir Alex Ferguson and now this deadline day transfer does raise concerns as the tenure of Solskjaer at Cardiff City paints a grim picture of a manager unable to come to terms with task at hand. Solskjaer to his credit has avoided the mistakes in recruitment that was a catastrophe at Cardiff City which included three Norwegian players who were also Solbakken clients. The second issue was the case of Solskjaer persisting with a player Babacar Saar while awaiting trial. Whatever the issue with Glazers handling of United they as a club will not like to be associated with an entity under cloud. Will that lead to Tommy Docherty like situation all over again remains to be seen.

The media adviser of Ed Woodward the ex-reporter for tabloid The Sun, Neil Ashton was spotted at Griffin Park where Mauricio Pochettino was also in attendance to watch Leeds United play. Rumour-mill was in overdrive coupled with above stories to paint a doomsday scenario for Solskjaer. That pressure was eased greatly by the news of UEFA banning Man City from Champions' League for next two seasons and a fine of 30 million Euro's which means that if United were to finish fifth they could still play in Champions' League next season thus saving Solskjaer's job. Europa League Cup has too many good teams left that makes a United win improbable. The English FA should also investigate if the titles won by Man City since the take over by Sheikh Mansour are legitimate. The 2011-12 win by City over United on goal difference under Sir Alex Ferguson and 2017-18 win by City over United with a massive 19 point difference under Jose Mourinho. Twenty times league Champions might become Twenty two! This ban reminds of the early days of last century wherein an alert United under shrewd Ernest Mangnall lured City's star players Billy Meredith, Sandy Turnbull who had helped them win the 1904 FA Cup were banned subsequently to aid the Red Devils win their first League and Cup titles in 1907 and 1908.

Solskjaer has three wins and a draw against Chelsea including the opening day 4-0 win of this season and earlier beat an under strength blues at the Bridge in the League Cup. United have a chance to do a double over their bogey team in Premier League for the first time since 1987-88 when it was the old First Division. Solskjaer confirmed he will not play Scott McTominay, Eric Bailly or Timothy Fosu-Mensah nor long time absentee Paul Pogba and of them the loss of McTominay will be huge that might tilt the match in blues favour. Marcus Rashford is out injured.

Usual back five, Fernandes-Fred with Pereira-Mata-James and Martial likely the starting XI. Ighalo off the bench for his debut as Martial moves to left in the second half. Thus far Solskjaer has played all his signings straight into first XI to underscore his point about poor quality of the side he inherited - Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes. Without Rashford to run in and supply a pass or a one-two, Martial seems aloof hence Solskjaer will be tempted to start with Ighalo and revert Martial to left of front three. Ighalo will push Martial to deliver or step-in himself. Greenwood in his breakthrough year has exceeded expectations whenever has has come off the bench while he is still in his developing years in terms of physique to start the match.

First match of this season and the first match after the first winter break, both against Chelsea! This break isn't like the international one where players disperse to national teams and then lose focus on return to their respective clubs but instead its renews the focus with training sessions away from media glare like United's at Marbella, Spain. Solskjaer got his wish in January transfer window with two signings and not Frank Lampard that increases the expectations despite the blues shrewdly signing Hakim Ziyech for the summer instead of comparatively costly and inexperienced Jadon Sancho. United need to learn and tie down their overseas targets now for the summer thinking ahead especially how slow they negotiate a player transfer. Commercial deals do not take that much time given Woodward's specialty! That once again proves the need for a Director of Football at United.

Hope Tommy Docherty is present to watch his two great sides battle it out as he hasn't been invited to Old Trafford since 2014. United are six points behind Chelsea and if they lose this match top four will be almost out of sight increasing the pressure on Solskjaer that Luke Shaw tried to deflect on players.

The Flowers of Manchester

One cold and bitter Thursday in Munich, Germany,
Eight great football stalwarts conceded victory,
Eight men will never play again who met destruction there,
The flowers of English football, the flowers of Manchester.

Matt Busby’s boys were flying, returning from Belgrade,
This great United family, all masters of their trade,
The pilot of the aircraft, the skipper Captain Thain,
Three times they tried to take off and twice turned back again.

The third time down the runaway disaster followed close,
There was slush upon that runaway and the aircraft never rose,
It ploughed into the marshy ground, it broke, it overturned.
And eight of the team were killed as the blazing wreckage burned.

Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor who were capped for England’s side.
And Ireland’s Billy Whelan and England’s Geoff Bent died,
Mark Jones and Eddie Colman, and David Pegg also,
They all lost their lives as it ploughed on through the snow.

Big Duncan he went too, with an injury to his brain,
And Ireland’s brave Jack Blanchflower will never play again,
The great Matt Busby lay there, the father of his team,
Three long months passed by before he saw his team again.

The trainer, coach and secretary, and a member of the crew,
Also eight sporting journalists who with United flew,
and one of them Big Swifty, who we will ne’er forget,
the finest English ‘keeper that ever graced the net.

Oh, England’s finest football team its record truly great,
its proud successes mocked by a cruel turn of fate.
Eight men will never play again, who met destruction there,
the flowers of English football, the flowers of Manchester.

Written anonymously by the editor of SING magazine Eric Winter in October 1958 but never took the credit. Captain of the unfortunate plane James Thain was cleared of any wrongdoing after a decade and multiple inquiries whereby his name was included later in the song. It missed mentioning Johnny Berry who never played again after the crash. 07-April 1950 Johnny Berry scored one of the best goals at Old Trafford while with Birmingham City to beat Manchester United. This precedent of MUFC going after players who have risen to the occasion to become their best in games played against United or their rivals has continued ever since. He scored the winning goal against Bilbao to take United into the semi-finals of the European Cup exactly a year before Munich on 06-Feb, 1957. Johnny Berry played in 273 games scoring 44 goals, won the league thrice in '52, '56 and '57 and earned 4 caps for England. His omission must be rectified to acknowledge his crucial contribution towards the success of Manchester United and being the 2nd senior most player behind captain Roger Byrne to have his career terminated by the crash at Munich.

In December, 1957 United beat Dukla Prague 3-1 on aggregate and while returning from Prague the scheduled flight with an airline was diverted via Amsterdam due to bad weather due to which United reached Birmingham eventually through sea and land journey to play City just hours before the kick-off; no wonder a tired team drew the match 0-0. Belgrade was even further away so the club decided to hire a private plane to avoid such a predicament as they had to play league leaders Wolves whose captain Billy Wright was born on 06-February, 1924. Frank Taylor one of the scribes who survived was seated at the front row asked some of his colleagues to move where many seats were vacant but all passengers had already settled. United having entered the European competition against the wishes of the Football League were set a condition that their entry is subject to them never failing to honour their obligation to play their matches in the league as per schedule following the mid-week European ties.

That United team had won two league championships in 1955-56, 1956-57 with an average age of just 22 and were aiming for a hat-trick in 1957-58. Had lost in the final of 1957 FA Cup which if they had won would have made them the first team to win the coveted double of league and cup in the same season, which Tottenham did later in 1961. Had lost to Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1957 and were regarded as the next favourites to win. The depleted squad after the crash still made it to the finals of the FA Cup and semi-finals of the European Cup.

Arthur Hopcraft summed it up beautifully: "It was not simply that very popular athletes had been killed and a brilliantly promising team destroyed. There was a general youthfulness about this particular Manchester United team which was new to the game. Manchester relished this fact. The old, often gloomy city had a shining exuberance to acclaim. These young players were going to take the country, and probably Europe too, by storm. To identify wit this procociousness, to watch people in other towns marvelling and conceding defeat, gave a surge to the spirit. Suddenly most of the team was dead."

The program notes of United's next match on 19th February the FA Cup 5th round tie against Sheffield Wednesday concludes: "Although we mourn our dead and grieve for our wounded we believe that great days are not done for us. The sympathy and encouragement of the football world and particularly of our supporters will justify and inspire us. The road back may be long and hard but with the memory of those who died at Munich, of their stirring achievements and wonderful sportsmanship ever with us, Manchester United will rise again."

Solskjaer must deliver now that Fernandes and Ighalo are in

The protracted transfer of Bruno Fernandes and deadline day dream of Odion Ighalo realized to assuage not only Solskjaer but also the agitating fans who brought upon themselves disrepute by throwing flare at Ed Woodward's home. Fernandes was being chased by Manchester United for a long time yet it consumed almost the entire January window to leave too little time to process for a much needed striker given the injury to Marcus Rashford. Odion Ighalo top scored for 3rd place Nigeria in the 2019 African Cup of Nations ahead of much fancied Mo Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, Wilfred Zaha and becomes the first major signing to a big club in the English Premier League from the Chinese Super League. Fans are fully behind the Nigerian who gets to fulfill his wish of emulating his childhood hero's Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke in playing for his beloved club. The loan move also means that MUFC do not spend big on a short term assignment and at the same time get an option to sign him later if indeed he proves to be a success at Old Trafford.

The results since the new year has been depressing. Loss to Arsenal, Liverpool and Burnley sandwiched between the two legged progress in the FA Cup against Wolves and a loss in two legs to neighbours City in the League Cup. The two victories came against bottom side Norwich and league two side Tranmere in the FA Cup 4th round! Burnley beat MUFC at Old Trafford for the first time since September, 1962. The last match before the winter break was a draw against Wolves in which Bruno Fernandes made his debut with five shots of goal, organizing the midfield but dropped deep to support the team that reduced his potency to score or assist. MUFC played better in the second half, after 88 minutes Dalot was introduced to play on right wing not Tahith Chong and the Portuguese sent his header off Man of the Match Aaron Wan-Bissaka's cross wide of the goal.

This game saw the victims of Munich air disaster remembered by a ceremony before the game at the memorial and during the game with a round of applause in the 58th minute. Neither Ed Woodward nor the Glazer family were present in the stadium to mark one of most important events in the annual calendar of the great institution that Sir Matt Busby painstakingly build from the bombed Old Trafford pitch post the war. The fans walk-out protest did not materialize either in the 68th minute. United and Wolves having played each other six times within a year lacked the edge to tilt the match as players and staff longed for the winter break due to depleted squad and additional matches for Europa League qualification respectively. The winter break after almost two thirds of the league fixtures having been completed isn't correctly placed but is positive step towards fulfilling a long standing demand from Sir Alex Ferguson who cited this as a major reason why continental teams had an edge in winning the European trophies during his reign. United now have not scored a goal in their last three league games against Liverpool, Burnley and Wolves.

The next six games are against Chelsea, Watford, Everton, Man City, Tottenham and Sheffield United till 21st March while most of the later seven games of the season are against the bottom half of the league except the last one against Leicester City. Solskjaer has got the two players to push for the top four, and two Cups FA and Europa. For final top four spot there are ten clubs within seven point gap chasing Chelsea including MUFC. Solskjaer is yet to win three consecutive league matches this season and based on form will lead United to its lowest ever points total in Premier League history. The return date of Paul Pogba is not yet known. Based on form if Solskjaer finishes outside the top six and fails to win a trophy questions will be raised over his position. Mauricio Pochettino who has worked on a shoe-string budget will attract the interest of any club owner, more so the business minded Glazers. As in the summer and January window this break will also see a plethora of stories linking Manchester United to attract its millions of fans to sites based at times not on fact but fiction like the take-over by Saudi's, player stories like Pogba and summer transfer wish list.

United face yet another old team of Tommy Docherty in Derby County in 5th round of FA Cup at Pride Park where Wayne Rooney is trying to revive the clubs push for promotion. Tonight the youth team play Leeds in the FA Youth Cup 5th round a stage reached for the first time since 2012 speaks volumes of the way the competition synonymous with Busby Babes and club now have not kept pace. The restructuring of the youth setup in the summer is progressing in the right direction at least. The prospect of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba playing together will cheer the supporters only if the club becomes more transparent over the Frenchman's progress from injury which on paper does not sound too serious. Pogba doing well at Euro 2020 and later sold to the highest bidder in the extended summer transfer window till end of August is the best hope. Fans though are more excited about Scott McTominay's return to help push for top 4.

Manchester clubs should have Mangnall Cup organized annually

Ernest Mangnall has the only distinction to have managed both Manchester United and Manchester City till date. During his reign both clubs moved their home to Old Trafford and Maine Road to become established clubs in the football league. At United he lured City's 1904 FA Cup winners Billy Meredith, Herbert Burgess and Sandy Turnbull who were auctioned off after a match fixing scandal that banned City from playing, to help the new club United win its first major honours the League in 1907, 1910 and FA Cup in 1908. He is the third most successful manager of all time at Manchester United.

"A great, intricate, almost delicate, and to the vast majority of the public an incomprehensible piece of machinery is the modern, up to date, football club. It is a creation peculiarly by itself. There is nothing like it..."  

The Manchester derby on 7th September, 1912 would be the last match he was officially in charge of United before joining rivals City who won the match 1-0 as rumours were rife about his shock switch before the match. At City he guided them to runners up in league in 1920-21 and FA Cup semi-final in 1924. Twelve years in charge interrupted by war that cut short his tenure to 9 seasons is the third longest serving manager of the Citizens behind Les McDowall and Wilf Wild.

His testimonial on 10th September, 1924 saw the best of Manchester face the best of Liverpool in a combined XI. Best tribute would be to organize a season opening U23 fixture between the two clubs alternately staged at Old Trafford and Etihad Stadium to mirror his crucial role during the incipient years that shaped the two clubs.

Solskjaer will be without Rashford and McTominay that sway the odds to a City win. If the Norwegian manages to win he will join the halcyon company of Mourinho and Klopp to have won two away fixtures against Guardiola and that can be counted as a special company. Without sure shot Lukaku the fulcrum of MUFC's win at PSG any repeat of that heroics seem distant for a club that has still not replaced Herrera and Fellaini let only the big Belgian marksmen. City are hoping to win the League Cup for the 3rd straight year. This match again presents Anthony Martial to hog the limelight but can he pull it of against a top side? Else MUFC need to bring in a striker like Moussa Dembele from Lyon who now have a replacement signed up.

Bruno Fernandes seems to be finally moving to Old Trafford after the protracted deal that consumed United the whole of January when they actually needed 3 or 4 players. After Fernandes signed a new contract last year United still put a #50 million bid expecting it to be concluded was being just blind, now the deal is structured to be #55 million + #10 million easily achievable bonus + #15 million difficult to achieve bonus + 10% of sell-on clause that totals #80 million! Micheal Carrick's shirt 16 is being vacated by the loan of Marcos Rojo to Estudiantes for Bruno Fernandes. MUFC linked to Southend goal keeper Nathan Bishop who has represented England at U20.

The green and white of Sporting Lisbon in Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Bruno Fernandes reminds of the famous Celtic players who chose to come to Manchester United most notably Paddy Crerand who was the missing link to supply Denis Law with the incisive passes that elevated the Reds to title contenders. Marcus Rashford must be particularly delighted by Bruno Fernandes. 

MUFC close in on Fernandes as #SackWoodward gathers pace

The details of Marcus Rashford's injury overshadowed the loss at Anfield and not the expected news about Bruno Fernandes signing. Ian Wright did not absolve Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from the blame either and rumours of an internal inquiry at MUFC to look into this issue surfaced. United were outplayed for most of the match as 34 clearances revealed while Andreas and Martial blew two big chances. David De Gea came out like a leader to protest against the foul by Virgil van Dijk as the new Captain Harry Maguire looked on. In form Mata and Greenwood were brought on very late by Solskjaer. Fred and Andreas got into positions where they could shoot for the goal but clearly lacked the skill that Bruno Fernandes can easily provide. The Portuguese is definitely an upgrade on MUFC existing midfield but needs a midfield organizer along side him like Donny van de Beek. This signing could possibly mean the start of Paul Pogba moving out of Old Trafford.
As a big club MUFC can easily negotiate with a smaller club in Sporting and the fact that both clubs had unofficial contact last summer so knew about the internal intricacies involved for more than 6 months yet this deal protracts. No excuses to have this deal not wrapped up by 1st week of January so that MUFC could have benefited by being in the Champions' League positions by now! With Rashford out injured potentially till end of the season can United get one additional player like Moussa Dembele a typical #9 who will cost more than #50million and Olympique Lyon have potentially signed a replacement in Karl Ekambi! Brazilian forward Everton Soares plays on the left of the front three much like Rashford but at the right age of 23 while Jarrod Bowen is of the same age but plays on the right of the front three.

Meanwhile Erling Haaland scored a hat-trick on his debut for Borussia Dotmund in a 5-3 comeback win over FC Augsburg. Cavani is beyond the age to make Eric Cantona type of impact realistically while Krzysztof Piatek is behind Ibrahimovic in the pecking order says everything. One thing is certain that without reinforcements the thread bare squad cannot sustain the challenge neither in the Premier League, Europa League nor FA Cup. As previously mentioned MUFC need to develop relations with the erstwhile G-14 clubs to take players on loan which is the best way to plug this gap while saving big on forced player purchases.

Money has never been an issue with MUFC but rather attaching value to it. If Solskjaer had #150 million to spend which he used it on just three players and could not consequently get a replacement for Lukaku while publicly saying he was satisfied with the summer transfer business does raise questions about squad planning for the whole season.

#SackWoodward got trending after the brave Gary Neville spoke the truth about the state of affairs at Manchester United. "I can’t believe, with the investment that has been put into the squad over the last five or six years and you end up with that out on the pitch. I cannot believe it." Once a Captain always a Captain.
This was followed by another correct analysis by Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol that while Chelsea and Man City owners injected 1 Billion dollars each into their respective clubs the Glazers at MUFC had taken out 1 Billion dollars from the club during the same time. Old Trafford is crying out for modernization.
Jude Bellingham a 16 year old playing in Birmingham City's first team already represents the kind of signings that Real Madrid and Borussia Dotmund regularly do now. 18-month loan deal is a bit too long though for the high transfer fee being placed on him.

MUFC Youth team finally reached the 5th round of FA Youth Cup after their 2-0 win over Norwich and will now face Leeds United. MUFC haven't gone beyond 5th round since 2012!

Its #MUNBUR next in the Premier League without Pogba, McTominay and Rashford. Lindelof was sent off from training due to illness which might lead to Eric Bailly getting into the starting XI. Excellent Mata might start at #10 with Andreas wide on right giving Daniel James much needed rest on the bench. Dalot, Gomes and Chong might get some game time. MUFC have not done the double over Burnley since 1975-76 season. Sean Dyche appreciated Solskjaer for being calm and positive amid all the pressure "It does take time. It’s taken a big transition from Sir Alex (Ferguson) to where it is now and it continues to be that. Ole is doing a good job in staying calm throughout that period." The reverse fixture a 2-0 away win was a resounding mid-week display towards the end of December that won over critics. Repeat performance at Old Trafford will be very difficult with injuries not impossible. Will Anthony Martial lead the forward line, harass the opponent defenders, be injury free and take Greenwood along after that miss at Anfield which he needs to banish as quickly as possible. Burnley have drawn their last three games at the Theatre of Dreams can they go one better?

Sir Matt Busby 'Mr Manchester United'

On this day: 20th January 1994 Sir Matt Busby passed away as MUFC under Sir Alex Ferguson successfully went on to win the first League and Cup double which had eluded Busby. Earlier in May, 1993 MUFC had ended their 26 year wait to become English League Champions once again. Few poignant quotes from Sir Matt Busby...

Returning to Manchester for the first time: "Resting in Interlaken, Germany was one thing and facing Old Trafford another. When I approached the ground and moved over the bridge along which our supporters had squeezed fifty abreast in there tens of thousands to shout for us I could scarcely bear to look. I knew the ghosts of the babes would still be there, and there they are still, and they will always be there as long as those who saw them still cross the bridge, young, gay, red ghosts on the green grass of Old Trafford."

Recollections on becoming the manager of MUFC: "It was not an easy assignment. The ground had been blitzed, they had an overdraft at the bank, what is more I had no experience as a manager, and I felt they were taking a great risk in appointing me."

Wearing a track suit whilst holding a training session: "Playing a wee bit o' football with the lads."

His first act after becoming MUFC manager was to ask Jimmy Murphy to be his assistant: "It could be that what either Jimmy Murphy or I lacked the other had. He would always give a straight-forward opinion. He was no yes-man."

To Stan Pearson facing big spenders Derby County in FA Cup semi-finals 1948 who duly scored a hat-trick in that match: "The greatest thrill in soccer is playing at Wembley on Cup Final day."

Keen on entering the new European competition against Football League's wishes: "Prestige alone demanded that the Continental challenge should be met, not avoided."

His philosophy after winning the League in 1955 with Busby Babes: "From the very start I had envisaged making my own players, having a kind of nursery so that they could be trained in the kind of pattern I was trying to create for Manchester United."

Whispering to Jimmy Murphy as Busby lay in hospital bed after the crash: "Keep the flag flying"

Trauma of being a survivor of a tragedy: "To be honest, I suppose I wasn't sane. I was raving and creating hell with everyone. Why us? Was it some human error or had this been decreed from above? If so, why hadn't I died with them?"

Fighting back: "There were many difficulties to overcome, but the hardest thing of all was coming round to flying again. For a few matches after Munich we went abroad by sea and train, but obviously that couldn't go on for too long. We all had to deal with it in our different ways."

Inspiration to carry on after Munich: "Frankly, ever since my wife, Jean, had told me in the Munich hospital that she felt sure the lads who had died would have wanted me to carry on, I had become increasingly obsessed about United winning the European Cup. It was almost as if this glittering trophy were the Holy Grail."

On Bobby Charlton scoring 68 goals in three seasons immediately after Munich "When things looked their blackest after the Munich accident, and there were times when I felt great despair, I was enormously cheered to think that Bobby Charlton was there. His presence was a great source of inspiration to keep working for the restoration of Manchester United."
Surprisingly lost to Partizan Belgrade in the semi-finals of European Cup 1966 when the United squad was at its peak: "We'll never win the European Cup now."

Decisive game of 1966-67 season beating West Ham 6-1 at Upton Park who had three World Cup winners Sir Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and had reached the finals of Cup Winners Cup with the finest display of football seen in England post the second world war: "This was my greatest hour."

To his players before the start of extra time in the European Cup final 1968: "I told them they were throwing the game away with careless passing instead of continuing with their confident football. I told them they must start to hold the ball and play again."

His decision to retire on 14th January, 1969: "Manchester United have become rather more than a football club. They are now an institution. I am finding less and less time to attend to the thing I consider paramount, which is the playing side."

Being conferred Manchester's first Freeman: "Football's great occasions are, for me at any rate, unequaled in the world of sport. I feel a sense of romance, wonder and mystery, a sense of beauty and poetry. The game becomes larger than life. It has something of the timeless, magical quality of legend."

Maguire elevation and the incredible United trio

Harry Maguire is confirmed by Solskjaer to be the new Club Captain after the proposed departure of Ashley Young to Inter Milan. Ashley has been a model professional, played at number of different positions admirably and given his best. It's unusual for a Captain to leave mid-season but fair play to Solskjaer to reduce the average age of the squad with Williams and Shaw ready to share the burden. Manchester United have had a history of great Captains from WW2 in Johnny Carey, to Roger Byrne, Noel Cantwell, Martin Buchan, Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney. Jose Mourinho destroyed his lineage by making his Captain be a bench warmer in Rooney, Carrick and Valencia who could not even speak English properly. Solskjaer is resetting another flaw to properly reflect the clubs DNA. Not a fan of Sir Bobby Charlton as a Captain especially during the post Busby years. 

Rashford, Martial and Greenwood have scored 26 league goals this season just two shy of the famed LFC trio of Salah, Firmino and Mane! This without a decent midfield to create quality passes and Pogba being injured for most of the season. Solskjaer being a striker himself must be filled with pride of his young strike force.


MUFC are the only team to have taken points off runaway league leaders LFC back in Oct with a 1-1 draw. Last seasons below par performance triggered MUFC board to sack Mourinho else the record at Anfield has spread out evenly in three's for loss, draws and wins from last nine fixtures there. Form goes out of the window in the biggest derby of English Football League like LFC's defensive solidity and MUFC's lack of goals away from home both of which point to only one result. Without the industrious McTominay and replaced by slow Matic the task will only become onerous. Rashford remains a doubt after his cameo lifted the spirits to have the only goal scored by Mata from a Martial pass in the FA Cup 3rd round replay against Wolves and was injured soon after for a sub to be substituted. Greenwood is still too young to command a regular starting berth.

Before the reverse fixture MUFC chief executive stepped in to speak in favour of Solskjaer and now has reportedly kept Bruno Fernandes on standby. Not getting the player which the club targeted in time for their biggest match of the season is not following Ferguson's template. This away match is the ultimate yardstick to measure the individuals in the squad and how well they combine to thwart the opposition. In the 80's when MUFC went eight games unbeaten including Ferguson's first match while LFC lifted trophies the present form is representative of the gulf in class between the two sides. With Chelsea losing yesterday United have the opportunity to reduce the gap to two points from the fourth spot. Maguire can seal the unlikely result by opening his goal tally for his new club to claim a legendary status.

19th February a momentous day for Manchester United through the ages

1910: First official game was played at the new home of Manchester United - Old Trafford. Gracious host lost to Liverpool 3-4 who would bec...

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