Showing posts with label Jimmy Murphy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jimmy Murphy. Show all posts

Sir Bobby Charlton: Inspiration for Manchester United post Munich and England's greatest ever

I became a fan of Manchester United thanks to Sir Bobby Charlton. While recovering from typhoid and para-typhoid in the summer of 1990, being able to watch episodes on World Cup history and then matches itself beamed on Doordarshan was a welcome relief. Charlton became my favourite. His natural instinct to shoot from 20 yards those thunder shots from either feet and exude a sense of quiet determination set him apart. Another fact that he played for a club based in a city renowned for textiles, the same industry that my father worked sealed this relationship for my lifetime.

Wave after wave of success that came United's way during the time of Sir Alex Ferguson, who like Sir Matt Busby reposed faith in graduates from youth academy in 1996 the likes of Giggs, Butt, Beckham, Neville, Scholes et al and that incredible treble during which time would frequently get to see Charlton in the director's box. The most striking aspect of those years was the reflection by Ferguson in 'Managing my Life' about not only the support that Charlton extended to him during the difficult period in 1989-90 season but also played a pivotal role in joining the club in 1986 "if ever I decided to move to England, I should let him know." during the World Cup in Mexico where Charlton was a commentator.

During his school days Charlton heard the 1948 FA Cup final on radio where the commentator described the match as the greatest FA Cup final of all time. He made up his mind if ever he were to join a club it will be Manchester United. Chief scout Joe Armstrong ensured United were the first club to approach and the fact that club had the best coaching setup further convinced Charlton. While in Manchester as a school boy Charlton declined to continue in Grammar school as he was required to play for them on Saturdays and not allowed to miss school on weekdays, so instead he decided to train as an apprentice engineer. Charlton made his way from playing in 5th tier of youth team through to winning the FA Youth Cups and two Youth Championships in Zurich to the first team between 1953 to 1956.

"Jimmy made me a Professional." was the dedication by Sir Bobby to the man who helped him the most to get the basics right and at the same time retain his special talents, Jimmy Murphy. Fierce competition for places meant Charlton had to bide his time to get into first team. Even after his debut and winning a league championship his place was not secure and he only got to play if either Tommy Taylor or Dennis Viollet got injured. That all changed on 21st December, 1957 when Sir Matt Busby made major changes to drop Ray Wood, Johnny Berry, Liam Whelan, David Pegg and pick Harry Gregg, Ken Morgans, Bobby Charlton, Albert Scanlon for a game vs Leicester City, United went on a 7-match winning streak! Then Munich happened.

"This is what lies at the heart of my story, first I had to go back to Munich.Without doing that, I know I couldn't begin to define my life" Charlton recalls in the Prologue of his autobiography "My Manchester United Years". His brother Jack said "He stopped smiling, a trait which continues to this day." Charlton was particularly upset about losing Duncan Edwards a fortnight after the crash when he was still recovering at his family home 113, Beatrice Street in Ashington near Newcastle. Charlton returned to play for United on 1st March in an FA Cup tie against West Brom. In three seasons immediately after Munich between 1958 to 1960, he scored 29, 18 and 21 goals which is quite easily his best goal scoring period for United in his entire career. Incredibly United finished as runners-up in 1959 league championship which no one could predict after losing 10 first players including 8 who died and 2 who could never play again.

"When things looked their bleakest 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." Sir Matt Busby 

Despite the personal differences formed a enthralling trinity with Denis Law and George Best from January, 1964 to October, 1971 that became the most anticipated team news attracting crowds wherever they played thus creating a legion of fans outside Manchester and worldwide that uniquely made Manchester United to be the best supported club in the world. Lifted the FA Cup in 1963, won two further league championships in '65 and '67, and ultimately the European Cup in '68 by scoring an unusual goal from a header in the final. Charlton collapsed on the pitch after the match and thinking of his lost pals stayed locked up in his room not joining rest of his team mates in celebration. 

Charlton scored on his debut for England against Scotland in 1958 and also in his 2nd game against Portugal but was made a scapegoat for the heavy loss against Yugoslavia and missed out on playing in the World Cup in Sweden when the team was still being picked by a committee. These matches being played immediately after Munich, at Belgrade both teams paid thier respects with a minute's silence with Charlton the only player who had survived the ordeal while his United team mates played AC Milan in the 2nd leg of European Cup semi-final. His record appearances and goals scoring feat both for Manchester United and England stood for more than 40 years! In the 2nd match of 1966 World Cup campaign against Mexico, it was Charlton's burst from inside his own half to carry the ball through and unleash a beauty from 25 yards that instilled confidence in England team after a dull 0-0 draw in the opening game. In the final, Charlton's selfless running slowed down Beckenbauer considerably in the 2nd half giving England a decisive edge against Germany. Charlton and Nobby Stiles are the only two Englishman to have won the World Cup and European Cup. Four years later despite leading 2-0 against Germany in quarter-finals, Alf Ramsey took Charlton off that instantly released Beckenbauer who scored and later they won the match in extra-time. 106th cap for England ended in anti-climax. Charlton is the lone Englishman to feature in Johan Cryuff's all-time favourite XI. 

Sir Bobby Charlton coined the phrase to describe Old Trafford as "theatre of dreams" and it will be the fitting host to honour his monumental legacy for both club and country. Words aren't enough to thank him for being always there and inspiring generations of players and fans alike. 

Fatigue catches up with the best United midfield in a decade

At the London stadium, Manchester United team consisting of midfield trio Casemiro, Eriksen and Fernandes tasted its first defeat to West Ham due to an howler from keeper David de Gea in the first half. Bruno Fernandes ranks the best in Europe in terms of xAG, key passes and shot creating actions. Despite starting well and creating a host of chances the forwards Weghorst, Rashford and Anthony failed to convert any. United lost their 4th away match in last five a staggeringly poor set of results that included a club record 0-7 drubbing at the hands of fiercesest rivals Liverpool at Anfield. Its Liverpool who are chasing down United for the crucial 4th spot for qualification to next season's Champions' League. United are only 1 point ahead with a game in hand and most crucially 3 of the remaining 4 matches are at home to Wolves, Chelsea and Fulham.

Fernandes(54), de Gea(53), Rashford(52), Fred(51), Casemiro(46), Martinez(45), Shaw(43), Dalot(40), Eriksen (39) have been part of United's squad that has played the most games of any club in the top 5 leagues across Europe. Also the age profile of players in their supposed peak around 30's has 9 players: de Gea, Casemiro, Varane, Maguire, Eriksen, Fred, Fernandes, Lindelof, Shaw, Martial. West Ham literally out ran United in the second half and were easily making a run with a shot at goal. It was a terrible sight. Substitutions were needed to be made around 60th minute or earlier to have been effective. This dip in second half performance clearly lays out the problem of fatigue. United need to muster all energy to push for 3 wins now else the season will unravel. Repercussions will include a lower budget for squad overhaul and importantly top players like Osimhen will again snub United for European glory.

United have been playing two games per week on Thursday's and Sunday's since Christmas and thanks to their exploit's in FA Cup and League Cup have played 52 games thus far. Bulk of their scoring has come from Rashford alone. Weghorst for all his effort in pressing hasn't been able to score enough goals while Martial has been injured or lacklustre. Since the last international break Fred has had a reduced participation and Casemiro a dip in form. Erik ten Hag picked Lindelof and Shaw in central defense and benched Maguire, who gracefully came on as a substitute whenever called upon. David de Gea discussing his new contract with United and committing blunders at the same time does not auger well for both parties involved despite public backing from the manager with a claim of most clean sheets in the Premier League this season.

United raised their game to beat Brighton on penalties and reach the FA Cup final. Despite being second best, they were able to contain the seagulls and constantly search for answers with timely substitutes which took to penalties. David de Gea miss read all spot kicks and then came Weghorst to cheekily disturb the next taker who missed the target thereby saving the Spaniard's blushes. Erik ten Hag has been able to bench under-performing players in defence, midfield and not in forward or goal keeping positions due to lack of squad depth. Dean Henderson rebelled against the club to be sent on loan, Heaton and Butland have not featured in any of Cup games either tells a stark tale of United living dangerously, after Newcastle recalled Martin Dubravka who had played in League Cup game. United might have to stop City winning the treble in the final.

Maguire, Martial, Henderson, Telles, Bailly, Tuanzebe, Williams, Jones potentially represent a third of squad that needs to be replaced and fill the empty slots in forward positions. Huge task lies ahead for Murtough and team in the summer. All major deals are held up due to takeover saga which has not concluded except that of Shaw and Garnacho. Likes of Rashford, Dalot who may want even bigger pay check if Qatar become the new owners. This will push the renewals to the summer and add work on top of recruitment. News of Glazers who may yet opt to stay either as majority shareholders in partnership with US Hedge Fund companies or in minority with Ineos bid was a big dampener. Supporters have put their weight behind the Ineos bid to remain apolitical.

Jimmy Murphy statue was unveiled in Old Trafford which finally recognises his crucial role in not allowing the club to fold in the immediate aftermath of Munich air disaster of 1958. Sir Matt Busby used to frequently say his best signing was his assistant Jimmy Murphy. Wayne Barton has written a definitive book aptly titled 'The Man Who Kept The Flag Flying' and recently shared the sad news of legendary United fan Tom Clare's passing. #RIPTomClare This comes after the loss of Ian Stirling, the founding member of clubs Fan Advisory Board and liaison officer for Manchester United Supporters Trust. #RIPIanStirling


United heading in the right direction

15 Manchester United players were involved in the FIFA World Cup that just concluded in Qatar with an exceptional final which was decided on penalties with Argentina edging France. United with 15 of its players were just behind neighbours City who had 16 and German giants Bayern Munich with 17. Most heartening statistic was that two of United's best centre-backs Raphael Varane (521") and Lisandro Martinez (301") featured prominently while Facundo Pellistri still not capped by Erik ten Hag got 182" game time in the tournament. Harry Maguire (430") will be the biggest positive having had a great tournament while Marcus Rashford (137") despite being top-scorer for England was underutilized by Gareth Southgate. Most destabilizing facet remains the state of mind of Jadon Sancho who could not make it to the squad and hasn't yet recovered from the psychological shock and is training by himself in Amstredam. Erik ten Hag said he is not sure about a date by when Sancho will be back. 5 of 15 players were signed by Erik ten Hag in the summer: Malacia, Eriksen, Martinez, Casemiro, Anthony!

United failed to top their group in UEFA League which means playing two extra fixtures against mighty Barcelona in February. Erik ten Hag got team selection wrong at Anoeta Stadium and later was desparate with route #1 football for the all elusive second goal. They lost to Aston Villa in the league for the first time since 1996 when Sir Alex Ferguson fielded his fledglings which made Alan Hansen to say 'you can't win anything with kids'. Influential on-field captain Bruno Fernandes missed the match due to suspension and Erik ten Hag gave World Cup hopefuls like Donny van de Beek a decent run in the first team. United won the next immediate fixture most convincingly against Villa in the Carabao Cup 4-2 and won against Fulham in the league with an injury time goal by Alejandro Garnacho. 'A star is born'. Garnacho clearly overshadowed a once great but sulking Portguese superstar who was forced to leave the club which further enhanced the rising pedigree of Erik ten Hag.


Owners of Manchester United, the Galzer family released a statement on 23rd November "the Board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions" specifically targetting the elephant in the room "to strengthen the club, including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment". Redevelopment of clubs home Old Trafford either by constructing a completely new facility or modifying existing structure needs huge funds and detailed planning. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired the club has not majorly invested in either Old Trafford nor its training ground at Carrington. Glazers who put the club in debt in order to buy it and that debt has soared rather than being pared-down. This profligacy and present economic outlook has finally forced the Glazers to consider selling the club. It's a welcome move but if new owners are from consortium of Amercian NFL teams the situation might become from bad to worse. Glazers wanting a big profit from their sale will rule out many genuine buyers like Sir Jim Ratcliffe who rightly wants to treat the club as a community asset and not a financial one. Tread with caution. United's share price rallied to a four year high of $22.84.

Cody Gapko is bookmakers favourite to arrive in January as a forward signing to replace the departed Portuguese. Gapko had a great World Cup for Netherlands scoring 3 goals which might make him even more expensive acquisition unlike City's shrewd signing of Julian Alvarez. Behind him is the Portuguese Goncalo Ramos who scored a hat-trick in a single match. Former United player Memphis Depay presents a cheaper option in transfer fee while Dusan Vlahovic is at club in turmoil whose entire board resigned enmasse. United played two games in Spain as practise when the World Cup was going on with remaining players and gave a host of youngsters a chance. As yet unused players Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams started both matches where Teden Mengi partnered Victor Lindelof in defense. Zidane Iqbal got the nod in midfield in both games. Club also announced triggering an extra year in contracts of four players: Marcus Rashford, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw and Fred. This will give club time till end of season to agree new deals with these players while they try to negotiate with David de Gea who can agree terms to join another European club in January.

Best news was indeed the date of unveiling of statue to the late Jimmy Murphy. The Welshman kept the flag flying in the darkest days of clubs history after the Munich tragedy and remarkably led the depleted team to the FA Cup finals. Apart from being the perfect foil for Sir Matt Busby as his assistant, he helped nurture the Busby Babes including Duncan Edwards, Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best. He even led Wales to quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup as their manager and rejected offers from Brazil, Arsenal to remain loyal to both club and Busby. If not for Murphy the club would have folded. Sir Bobby Charlton credited Murphy entirely for his development "He was a brilliant teacher. The greatest influence on my career." Kudos to Patrick Burns of Manchester Munich Memorial Fund to form a consortium of Manchester United fan groups and approach the club to finally give Jimmy Murphy the importance he deserves. Statue will come up near Stretford End where he used train the Busby Babes.

Erik ten Hag has put in place a modern possession based football which was expected from Ralf Rangnick and coaches under him earlier. More importantly he has worked with most of first team players and improved them. Rejuvenation of Marcus Rashford is the main highlight; in just 15 matches he has overtaken the goals and assists tally of entire last season when he looked lost while battling injury. Main exception was the Portuguese superstar who despite preferrential treatment ultimately lashed at the very club who made him a star. Luckily the new United board under Richard Arnold and advisories like Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill stood by the manager thankfully, and did not repeat the mistake of backing the player against Jose Mourinho. This is a football club again! Other exceptions to player progress are mainly due to injuries to Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams. Hopeful to see Facundo Pellistri in the 2nd half of season if he is not loaned out. A new star emerges to replace an icon, more control to Erik ten Hag, under-fire owners evaluating all options including a sale, sizeable world cup participation, finally a long overdue recognition to Jimmy Murphy - right direction indeed.

Glazers engage with fans after 16 years

Friday afternoon on 4th June, Joel Glazer finally met with Manchester United fans forum representatives - the first meeting between Glazer family and fans 16 years after the heavily leveraged buyout that saddled the club with £540 million of debt and never been wiped out due to interest payments, loans and dividends made out to the Glazer family of over £1.1 billion in the same time. Before Glazers the club was debt-free and self-sustaining, consequently became the most sought after club in world football including being pursued by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB the chief broadcasters of English Premier League which was vehemently and successfully opposed by unifying all United fans organizations, prominent MPs like Michael Crick and the media. Edwards family owned United between 1958 and 2002 for 44 years but were generally hated by the fans for mismanagement of England's most famous sporting institution as detailed in the brilliant book 'Manchester United: The Betrayal of a Legend', sadly same fate has befallen the Glazers.

Glazers were forced to apologize and meet the fans, it has to be noted not on their own volition but due to the fan protests and widespread condemnation of the disastrous flirtations with European Super League announcement on 19th April. Protests by United fans led to disruption to the training at Carrington on 22nd April and cancellation of the biggest fixture in the English league against their arch rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford. Glazers were forced to pay £22 million fine imposed by the Football Association. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and Super League fiasco the Glazers still persisted with taking $0.09 per share as dividend that will be issued on 30th July. This makes the mockery of fine imposed by the FA, and further raises questions on why this take-over was not blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission now called CMA. Ironically its the three American owners of three big traditional England football league clubs in Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal who have backed the Super League to mirror their operations in American NFL franchises!

Same top three English teams were involved in the previous flirtation of European Super League in 1998, there again backed by JP Morgan from where the Glazers hired Ed Woodward to work on buying Manchester United. Then JP Morgan had promised $20 million to each of the founding clubs and of being in a group of 16 teams who will participate for six years irrespective of their domestic league position; that sum became $200 million in 2021. Since then the number six has had deliberate evolution in European football - top 6 teams: ignoring traditional giants of the game like Everton or Aston Villa, these top six sides in the league had steadily increased their lead from the rest of the league. Evolution perhaps has a surprise too, in Leicester City's of the world who have worked hard from ground up to evolve into a major club by strategic choice and financial backing by football savvy owners. Contrast Leicester City owners with Glazers who famously cut the net budget in the later years of Sir Alex Ferguson to about £20 million each year. Recall United selling Cristiano Ronaldo for £80 million, lost Carlos Tevez to local rivals City and replaced the duo with Michael Owen (free transfer), Antonio Valencia (£16 million), Gabriel Obertan (£3 million) and Miram Diouf (£4 million) from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed club Molde! Consequently the last Premier League winning team under Ferguson had iconic veterans who needed urgent replacing - Giggs, Scholes, Ferdinand and Vidic. Imagine if Glazers would have been in touch with football where might United have been post Ferguson? Brian Glanville wrote this of the Malcolm Glazer in 2005 under the heading 'United they fall': "Utterly ignorant of soccer, owner of Tampa Bay Buccaneers American gridiron club, obsessed by the urge to make money from childhood, at odds with his own sisters over his mothers will, he is the very incarnation of capitalism red in tooth and claw."

This was not the first protest by the Manchester United fans who had previously launched the 'Green and Gold' campaign by Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) that was inspired by the colours of Newton Heath LYR (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) football club as United used to be known till 1902. Many loyal fans who had been supporting the club for more than two to three generations were part of this protest, and some of them even managed to form a new club FC United who now play in Northern Premier League the 7th tier of English football. They did not get the backing from any of players of the club including the "Class of '92" who instead invested in Salford City FC in 2014 and changed their jersey from tangerine shirt and black short to red shirt and white short. That kit sounds familiar!

In the absence of any football men on United board its the 'Class of '92' who are backing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just like Sir Matt Busby backed Tommy Docherty when United suffered their last relegation and like Sir Bobby Charlton backed Sir Alex Ferguson when he faced his worst crisis in 1989. It must also be stressed that Docherty and Ferguson had achieved path-breaking success at their previous clubs in Chelsea and Aberdeen respectively unlike modest Solskjaer.

Threat of Super League finally made Gary Neville to take a stand against the Glazer ownership and further shared details of him recalling his medals given to United for display at their museum four years ago, as had a former United captain Martin Buchan. Thus far the "Class of '92" have rightly backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in general about the direction of rebooting the club as per its tradition. If Solskjaer does not win trophies this upcoming season be assured this backing might change. Gary Neville had the toughest of tasks to succeed Roy Keane and bridge the chasm that emanated from the bitter fall out between Ferguson and his long standing, most successful United captain. Neville has successfully campaigned for an independent regulator in football to which the government has positively responded, and his assessment of the outcome of fans meeting with the Glazers was spot-on too. Doubts remain if Glazers would ever agree to a fan share scheme but the result of #NotAPennyMore campaign that has led to the The Hut Group pulling out of the training kit deal offers hope.

The Manchester Munich Memorial Fund (MMMF) that spearheads the joint group of major United fan organizations to lobby for recognition of Jimmy Murphy's major contribution in creating the Busby Babes and leading the fightback after the crash at Munich made significant breakthrough in their talks with the club who in principle have agreed to the proposal. Confirmation from Jimmy Murphy's grandson in 'All for United' YouTube channel.

Glazers NFL franchise Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite having the lowest win percentage 0.397 they shrewdly acquired the greatest player in NFL history in Tom Brady and won only their second Super Bowl. Can they replicate the same with Manchester United by getting Cristiano Ronaldo? Since the retirement of Ferguson and only when United are out of top four Glazers have invested heavily, this peak and trough transfer policy without a core guiding principle has back-fired thus far. Ed Woodward the embattled chief executive finally quitting and decision making decentralized to a limited extent makes for a fascinating season ahead, not just the transfers. Solskjaer wisely is being patient in his reboot to fill all facets of a modern football club by getting the youth setup revamped, hiring coaches at all levels, backroom staff, director of football, and this is slowly but surely leading to a crescendo of success as a tribute to halcyon days of Busby and Ferguson. If the Glazers do not stop taking dividends and reduce the debt nor engage with fans, irrespective of any on field success they risk being hated just like the Edwards. Old Trafford needs urgent attention!

2005-06 was the only time I got a postcard from United to join as a overseas member, immediately after the Glazer takeover. I remain hopeful of a positive change.

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.

PS: Yep that's my birthday!

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...

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."

Introducing youth players from the academy be it Roger Bryne and Jackie Blanchflower vs Liverpool in Nov, '51 and many others since "If you’re good enough, you’re old enough."

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"

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."

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."

On George Best who between 1964 to 1971 for 8 seasons hardly missed any games against hard tackling players like Ron Harris, Norman Hunter, Tommy Smith, Frank McLintock, Mike Doyle, Danny Blanchflower in an era when referees could not do anything to protect creative players: "George Best had more ways of beating a player than anyone I've ever seen. He was unique in his gifts." Incidentally George Best received the second ever Red Card in English game when it was belatedly introduced in 1976 when he used foul language against referee playing for Fulham in the second division.

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." All three of the Trinity - Charlton(1), Law(2) and Best(1) scored in that game. That same XI except Denis Law who was injured and replaced by Brian Kidd played in the victorious European Cup final a year later.

To his players before the start of crucial 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."

4000th consecutive game with a youth from academy in match day squad!

That's an incredible feat for a club that struggled financially in the 1930's to survive and achieved success out of it in post war on account of 'Busby Babes' yet persisted with the philosophy even through the doldrums years of 70's and 80's till Ferguson's Fledglings' to the present day!

Re-posting the following from an earlier blog post. "Manchester United Junior Athletic Club formed in 1937 was a brain child of the then club chairman James W Gibson to make MUFC competitive in economic depression when he saved them from the brink and were unable to fund any transfers. James Gibson secured the acquisition of the Cliff training ground, persuaded Midland Railway operating Manchester Central to London St Pancras trains to stop at Old Trafford on match days to increase gate receipts and MUJAC helped in discovering players from Charlie Mitten to Marcus Rashford. MUFC can count on at least one player from the academy in their first team on a match day squad since then which is 4,000 games over 82 years!! No wonder MUFC top the rankings of promoting academy players to first team."

The first match in question was against Fulham away in second division on 30th October, 1937 which MUFC lost 0-1. The full squad was Breen (GK), Griffiths, Roughton, Brown, Vose, McKay, Wrigglesworth, Wassal, Bamford, Whalley, Manley. Wassal & Manley the youth from academy. MUFC came second that year to gain their second promotion of the decade and stayed in the top division for 36 years. Scott Duncan the coach since 1932 had resigned midway through the season on 09-November over disagreement with youth policy and once again it was left to loyal club servant Walter Crickmer in temporary charge supported by Louis Rocca and Tom Curry to carry the club through the tough times delivering the promotion that gained MUFC an elite status during the war years.

Louis Rocca the chief scout had signed the young Johnny Carey who debuted on 25th September, against Southampton and scored his first goal against Nottingham Forest a club he would manage later in his career. Jack Rowley signed by James Gibson when he was on a vacation to Bournemouth debuted on 23-October against Sheffield Wednesday and scored a hat-trick aged 17 years vs Swansea Town. Salford born local lad snapped up by Louis Rocca in Stan Pearson debuted against Chesterfiled on 13-November and would eventually score 149 goals in 345 appearances across 17 years interrupted by war. Groundwork was laid before Sir Matt Busby took up the reins post war and this trio played a major part to ensure success in 1948 FA Cup and winning the League Championship 3 years later.

MUFC chairman said of MUJAC at the AGM in 1939 "It is from these unusually comprehensive nurseries that the club hopes an all-Manchester team at some distant period might be produced." MUFC finished 14th on their return to top flight, the reserves won the central league for the first time in 18 years, 'A' team won the Manchester League and MUJAC won their division of Chorlton League - a very successful year indeed.

Busby took MUJAC to another level when he insisted on having four sides competing for a place in the first team thereby increasing the scope and age groups of players, assigning coaches, consistent playing style to ease the promotion to first team that ensured MUFC winning the first six FA Youth Cups from 1953 to 1957. One of Busby's oft quoted phrase “If they are good enough, they are old enough.”. The 1964 FA Youth Cup winners George Best, David Sadler, John Fitzpatrick, John Aston Jr, Jimmy Rimmer who played in the victorious 1968 European Cup campaign. Busby was immensely helped by his chief scout Joe Armstrong and his magnificent team, his assistant Jimmy Murphy, trainer Tom Curry, coaches Bert Whalley, Bill Inglis, Jack Crompton, Wilf McGuinness.
Post Busby the baton was led forward by Wilf McGuinness, Tommy Docherty, Frank Blunstone, Bill Foulkes, Tommy Cavanagh and importantly Eric Harrison who arrived in 1981 aided in promoting Mark Hughes, Norman Whiteside, Clayton Blackmore, Graeme Hogg immediately making it to the 1982 FA Youth Cup final. Later Eric Harrison combined effectively with the rebuild of Sir Alex Ferguson that unearthed the 'Fergie's Fledgling's' the famous pic below made up of players from 1992 and 1995 FA Youth Cup winners. Before the 1995-96 season opener against Aston Villa when Ferguson fielded his young side that lost 1-3 prompting BBC pundit Alan Hansen to say "You can't win anything with kids" which was debunked the same season by winning the championship, but it was in the match against Port Vale in League Cup the previous year that Ferguson had made his Fledglings to play together and win courtesy of two debut goals by Paul Scholes.


Succeeding Eric Harrison were Les Kershaw, Brian McClair, and Nicky Butt who have held the prestigious role of director of youth academy in recent past. Archie Knox, Brian Kidd, Steve McLaren, Jimmy Ryan and Mike Phelan, Carlos Queiroz serving as assistants to Ferguson have contributed greatly. Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard from the current team were part of the last FA Youth Cup triumph in 2011. Iconic image of today's generation led by Marcus Rashford as the juniors look up to the lad from Wythenshawe for inspiration. The increased impetus to promoting youth before looking for external first team recruits has endeared Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to the fans despite some disappointing form and firmly believe in his vision for a bright MUFC future. 

Please find the link to the excellent book 'Sons of United' which has been painstakingly put together by Tony and Steve here.  Ferguson described watching a young Ryan Giggs (was known as Ryan Wilson before changing his name) for the first time after a tip off from scout Harold Wood as "A gold miner who has searched every part of the river or mountain and then suddenly finds himself staring at a nugget could not feel more exhilaration than I did watching Giggs that day." While the railway timetable became the best companion of Sir Matt Busby who used to go all around the country on weekdays to seek the next nugget.

My Greatest MUJAC team: David Gaskell (GK), Gary Neville, Eddie Colman(C), Bill Foulkes, Phil Neville, George Best, Paul Scholes, Duncan Edwards, Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes, Sir Bobby Charlton

Right time to push Ed Woodward for Jimmy Murphy stand

In an unusual development Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward has given an interview and chosen a sensible, long running fanzine in United We Stand whose editor is the well known Andy Mitten. It appears as a first in a two part series of interview where wide-ranging topics about MUFC will be openly discussed. Here is a link to Simon Stone's analysis for the BBC. Clearly the commercial arm of MUFC has grown from 28% to 48% of total revenue under the Glazers but unless broadcasting rights do not improve by participating in the Champions' League the club might have just reached a plateau necessitating the urgent need to get back into top 4 for which they might have to invest in players even in January.

Yesterday 22nd, October marked the anniversary of Sir Matt Busby signing on the contract with MUFC in 1945 and the club announced it has added the original contract to be displayed at the MUFC Museum while it was purchased from a private buyer in May, 2018. Such moves about preserving the rich heritage of our club certainly bodes well with the fans. Sir Matt Busby transformed the war damaged Old Trafford stadium and built a philosophy of football against which players and managers of every era shall be forever measured against. As Sir Alex Ferguson put it “I’m privileged to have followed Sir Matt Busby because all you have to do is to try and maintain the standards that he set so many years ago."

There appears to be an initiative to reach out to the media, ease the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and reduce the impact of #GlazersOut movement. Ed Woodward is trying to front up by answering questions while trying to become the face of MUFC in an event of potential takeover that is never out of news.

One of the key long standing demands to award knighthood to Harry Gregg who saved so many lives on that fatal day 06, February 1958 at Munich was partly realized when in June, 2019 he was conferred with an OBE. While this was definitely late in coming and out of MUFC control, another demand of dedicating the K-Stand on Jimmy Murphy the first signing of Sir Matt Busby to become his assistant from '45 till '71 who kept the club going on the football field despite the Munich tragedy deserves a more fitting tribute than just a memorial in the Munich room of the Museum, a media center at Carrington or MUFC Young Player of the Year award being named after him.

Renaming the Scoreboard end or East Stand will not diminish the fans favourite Stretford End where MUFC usually end their 2nd half attacking the visiting teams. Solskjaer led MUFC to top 4 after beating Southampton 3-2 with a late winner by Romelu Lukaku and said "I have been part of so many games like this, towards the Stretford End in the second half. That Stretford End will always suck a ball into the net for you. That is the best place to score a winner." Wikipedia is split with K-stand fans moving to both top tier of Stretford End and on to Scoreboard End. Plaque dedicated to victims of Munich is also at south end of the East Stand. Renaming Scoreboard End will complete the quartet - others being Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, and Stretford End.

Steve Donoghue has the petition on change.org already set up while Brian Mulholand's is at thepetitionsite. The petition for Harry Gregg is rightly closed after receiving more than 14,000 signatories while this petition at change.org for Jimmy Murphy is just at 1,093. Better to have a single petition at change.org which is widely recognized while Brian has more updates. Requesting fans of MUFC esp the Busby Babes to help secure more signatures. Hoping Andy Mitten might ask Ed Woodward about it and publish the response in next months edition of UWS. Old Trafford's development has been rightly chosen as a question which is indeed good.

Garnacho, Hojlund, Mainoo

INEOS chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe not only met with all staff and players but also fans forum and community groups to stress the same message...

Popular Posts