League champions a record 20 times, the first English club to win the European Cup and with a nationwide supporter base, Manchester United are have been a huge part of our sport coverage for more than a century.
This book charts United’s history from 1892 through reproduced articles from The Telegraph archive. There are match reports, iconic images and opinion pieces about the club that have alw dominated the headlines – and divided opinion – for more than a century.
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Recipient’s name embossed in silver on front cover
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Size: A3 (29.7 x 42cm)
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As Sam Wallace, the chief football writer of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, writes in his foreword: “Manchester United’s history – the triumphs and tragedy, the rise and fall and rise – may just be the greatest story British sport has known.”
United’s origins were humble, like many clubs of the late-Victorian era. They began life in 1878, formed as a works’ football team by the men of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway at the Newton Heath depot in east Manchester.
It was another 14 years before the club made the pages of The Daily Telegraph, and it was 1902 before they became Manchester United, Newton Heath having been served a winding-up order. Present-day fans may – or may not – smile at the irony of ownership issues.
United won the League Championship for the first time in 1908, and their first FA Cup win followed the next season, but despite reclaiming the league title in 1911, it was not until after the Second World War that the club emerged as a powerhouse.
Matt Busby's impact
That was down to Sir Matt Busby, the first of two Scotsmen who managed the club for more than 25 years and were instrumental in building it up. Or rebuilding it, in Busby’s case, for the Old Trafford he arrived at in 1945 had been so badly damaged by bombing that his team had to play their matches at Maine Road, home of rivals Manchester City.
Busby led the team to success in the 1948 FA Cup final, and three league titles followed in 1952, 1956 and 1957. The last two were won with an exciting young side labelled the “Busby Babes” who were set to dominate English and European football – until tragedy struck and United found themselves on the front pages.
The Munich Air Disaster, on February 6, 1958, robbed United of eight of their title-winning side. They were among 23 people who died when the flight carrying players, officials and journalists crashed on take-off after refuelling in Germany. United had been returning from winning a European Cup quarter-final against Red Star Belgrade.
It became another defining moment in the club’s history – the start of a decade that began with Busby recovering slowly from his own injuries in the crash and ended with him holding the European Cup aloft at Wembley in 1968.
Busby did not just rebuild United again – he produced another of the most exciting teams in the history of English football, spearheaded by the fabled trio of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton – the last a survivor of Munich.
The Sixties were an era of unprecedented change in England, and this book reflects the part that United played in making the decade swing. In 1957, The Daily Telegraph reporter Frank Coles had observed that Busby was “writing one of the most fabulous stories of Big Soccer”. If so, then the European Cup final win over Benfica was a fitting epitaph.
The Alex Ferguson era
Unthinkably, United were relegated only six years after becoming champions of Europe, and the title they had won under Busby in 1967 proved to be their last for 26 years. The manager who took United back to the summit was Alex Ferguson, born in Glasgow some 14 miles from where Busby had been raised, and his first title came in the seventh season of a reign that many United fans felt should have never have lasted that long.
Three years after Ferguson’s arrival, in 1989, a United fan at Old Trafford held a banner that famously read: “Three years of excuses and it’s still c**p. Ta-ra Fergie.” But United stuck with Ferguson and he oversaw an astonishing period of success that coincided with the rebirth of football in England, as the Premier League took off and the papers reported it all in glorious colour.
Having become the first winners of the Premier League in 1993, they retained the trophy with a team who were, like Busby’s, full of youngsters. The home-produced Class of ’92 – Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville – supplemented more experienced stars such as Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel and Eric Cantona.
By the time Ferguson retired in 2013, he had won 13 Premier League titles and United had conquered Europe twice more. Each of those Champions League wins reflected the club’s unrivalled flair for drama – two stoppage-time goals robbing Bayern Munich of victory in the 1999 final in Barcelona, and a penalty shoot-out in the early hours in Moscow deciding the first all-English final against Chelsea in 2008.
Both are typical of United, not content with simply making the headlines but famous for rewriting them at the very last minute.