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.