Manch­ester United

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

Can Jose Mour­inho fire the Red Dev­ils to greater heights this sea­son? Quin­ton For­tune gives his view.

MANCH­ESTER UNITED is the most suc­cess­ful side in English foot­ball, hav­ing won 20 league ti­tles since its of­fi­cial found­ing in 1902. From the fa­mous ‘Busby Babes’ to Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s un­prece­dented suc­cess at United’s helm, tri­umph has been a re­sult of an un­matched win­ning men­tal­ity. De­spite tro­phies fill­ing the club’s cab­i­nets, United have ap­peared a fall­ing gi­ant in re­cent years, but Jose Mour­inho’s aim is to change that. Will the Por­tuguese boss get the Red Dev­ils to once again raise hell in Eng­land? Kurt Buck­er­field takes a look at what has driven the club’s for­tunes.

A new English gi­ant is born

The club was founded in 1878 as New­ton Heath LYR Foot­ball Club, but of­fi­cially be­came Manch­ester United 24 years later when a wealthy lo­cal brewer named John Henry Davies saved the club from al­most go­ing bank­rupt. To prove how times have changed, United were said to be in just un­der £3 000 (R51 000) of debt at the time – a minis­cule amount in this day and age. Davies’ vi­sion was to de­velop the grounds at Old Traf­ford Sta­dium, which be­came one of the coun­try’s lead­ing venues after its com­ple­tion in 1910. Yes, it took eight years to build. As the club grew in stature, they were viewed as one of the more con­tro­ver­sial sides in Eng­land’s top-flight, find­ing them­selves in trou­ble for ma­nip­u­lat­ing fi­nan­cial state­ments. For this, the club was sar­cas­ti­cally la­belled “mon­ey­bags United”. This early era didn’t see United be­come suc­cess­ful im­me­di­ately, but post World War II, things were to change dra­mat­i­cally.

First era of suc­ces un­der Sir Matt Busby

Old Traf­ford was badly dam­aged dur­ing World War II, which meant that not only did things need re­con­struct­ing on the field, but off the pitch too. An un­likely source was to be the face of the club’s trans­for­ma­tion and his name was Sir Matt Busby. The Scots­man was a lead­ing player in Eng­land be­fore World War II, rep­re­sent­ing both Manch­ester City and Liver­pool – two of United’s fiercest ri­vals in foot­ball. Busby was given a chance to man­age the club, tak­ing over as boss in 1945. The man­ager’s im­pact at the club was im­me­di­ate, as his de­mand­ing style saw United quickly be­come league chal­lengers. After seven years of prom­ise, Busby won his first league ti­tle in 1952. The key to his suc­cess? Com­plete con­trol! Busby was the first man­ager in Eng­land to deal with trans­fers, as well make all foot­balling de­ci­sions. Back then, man­agers were seen more as train­ers, while the shots were called by board mem­bers and club own­ers. He truly rev­o­lu­tionised the art of man­age­ment. The game was to change for­ever.

Busby Babes and the Mu­nich air dis­as­ter

Busby had to re­build his team with play­ers a lot younger than he was used to work­ing with after win­ning the league, and they be­came af­fec­tion­ately known as the ‘ The Busby Babes’. Their youth­ful en­ergy guided United to two suc­ces­sive league ti­tles in 1956 and 1957, a re­mark­able feat for a team of in­ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers. Trag­i­cally, the club’s his­tory would change for­ever on 6 Fe­bru­ary 1958, when a plane car­ry­ing the Manch­ester United team crashed while at­tempt­ing to take off in a bl­iz­zard in Mu­nich, Ger­many. Among the ca­su­al­ties were eight United play­ers, while Busby him­self was se­verely in­jured. While Bobby Charl­ton sur­vived the ac­ci­dent, one of those who passed away was 21-year-old Dun­can Ed­wards, whose death Charl­ton once said was the big­gest sin­gle tragedy Manch­ester United had ex­pe­ri­enced.

How catas­tro­phe changed the club for­ever

The un­ex­pected tragedy shook the foot­balling world to its core, with fans of the beau­ti­ful game from around the globe pay­ing their re­spects to those who lost their lives in the dis­as­ter. This mis­for­tune, how­ever, was to be a mas­sive turn­ing point for Manch­ester United – a club that had now gained a mas­sive fol­low­ing in Eng­land and the rest of Europe. Busby went on to re­cover and lead United to even more suc­cess, with the likes of De­nis Law, Ge­orge Best and Charl­ton the stars of his new team. The Red Dev­ils were now one of the big­gest clubs in foot­ball, but after Busby’s exit in 1971, Liver­pool be­came Eng­land’s dom­i­nant force. The Mersey­side club won 20 tro­phies over the next 20 years, in­clud­ing 11 first di­vi­sion ti­tles and four Euro­pean Cups. United man­agers such as Frank O’Far­rell, Tommy Docherty, Dave Sex­ton and Ron Atkin­son were un­able to es­tab­lish them­selves as elite bosses dur­ing this suc­cess­ful spell of Liver­pool, but in 1986 Sir Alex Fer­gu­son was ap­pointed man­ager. The club knew he was spe­cial, but no­body could’ve pre­dicted what was to come.

Fall from grace

Win­ning was en­grained in this club. Tro­phies be­came the norm un­der Fer­gu­son, but was his ge­nius per­haps taken for granted? David Moyes was ap­pointed man­ager of United in 2013, but lasted just 10 months. Ryan Giggs took charge of the fi­nal four games fol­low­ing Moyes’ sack­ing, though it was Louis van Gaal who the board ex­pected to bring suc­cess back to Old Traf­ford. With United how­ever look­ing a shadow of their former selves un­der the ex-Hol­land boss, Van Gaal was sacked two years later. Be­sides the FA Cup, tro­phies had eluded the club’s cabi­net, but the foot­ball, for some fans, was dif­fi­cult to watch.

The im­por­tance of Mour­inho

A suc­cess­ful club needs a big man­ager. De­spite Fer­gu­son be­ing United’s most dec­o­rated boss, the club knew what win­ning

was be­fore his ar­rival. His huge per­son­al­ity, of course, el­e­vated United to even greater heights, some­thing fans hope Jose Mour­inho can pick up from. The Por­tuguese boss has proven him­self as one of the dugout’s mod­ern day greats, but his true test be­gan when he was an­nounced as Manch­ester United man­ager in 2016. De­spite hav­ing won Uefa Cham­pi­ons League ti­tles with the likes of Porto and In­ter Mi­lan, Mour­inho has still never stayed at a sin­gle club for longer than three years, and key to United’s tri­umph un­der Busby and Fer­gu­son was longevity. Like the two afore­men­tioned coaches, how­ever, Mour­inho is a win­ner. His style of coach­ing and man-man­age­ment dif­fers to what United play­ers have seen in the past, but fans saw the ben­e­fits of what he brings to the club in the 2016/17 cam­paign. Mour­inho was able to at­tract su­per­star Paul Pogba back to the club, al­beit by way of a former world record fee, as well as Swedish vet­eran striker Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic. Yes, United are a club proud of pro­duc­ing tal­ents such as David Beck­ham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Sc­holes, but ev­ery suc­cess­ful Red Dev­ils side has had big char­ac­ters in the dress­ing room. Ge­orge Best, Eric Can­tona, Peter Sch­me­ichel and Roy Keane are among those names. There­fore, Mour­inho’s pro­file and pulling power is key to any suc­cess United will have in fu­ture. The Por­tuguese boss proved that with Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan last sea­son, as well as with Ne­manja Matic and Romelu Lukaku this sea­son. In his first cam­paign, Mour­inho was able to win three tro­phies, in­clud­ing the Uefa Europa League ti­tle. De­spite the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss play­ing a dif­fer­ent brand of foot­ball than what United were used to un­der Fer­gu­son, he can be the man who makes the Red Dev­ils a force once again.

MAIN PIC: Manch­ester United head for goal dur­ing a Uefa Europa League quar­ter fi­nal sec­ond leg match against RSC An­der­lecht at Old Traf­ford on 20 April.

ABOVE (LEFT & RIGHT): Jose Mour­inho in ac­tion dur­ing a Uefa Su­per Cup match against Real Madrid on 8 Au­gust.

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