My United Story Part 1
My story starts long before l was born when my fathers father came to Manchester from lreland to work for Lancashire & Yorkshire Railways from where Newton Heath and then Manchester United were born. My father was born in the Denton area of Manchester in 1914 and grew up a Manchester United fan through the barren 20s and 30s. In 1937 he married my mother and moved to Radcliffe to live with her. After the war he went to see United as often as possible though he watched other teams too. He was in the crowd at Bolton Wanderers ground Burnden Park for a cup tie with Stoke City. Pre match a disaster occured and 46 people died but the match went ahead with the bodies placed on the grass near the touchlines and covered in coats and blankets.
Happily for my father United were now managed by Matt Busby and began their climb to the top. They won the FA Cup in 1948 and the League Championship in 1952 after many second place finishes. But during the early 50s what excited my father most were the young players recruited by Matt and his assistant Jimmy Murphy. My Dad and my eldest sister and sometimes my eldest brother went to watch these young players in the newly created FA Youth Cup. Uniteds youngsters won this cup for the first 5 years of its existence. They then began to break into the first team replacing the older players. They took the league by storm and the won championship in 1956. Then Busby defied the league secretary Alan Hardaker and took his young team into the European Cup. They performed well for their first effort and reached the semi final where the magnificent Real Madrid knocked them out. But the won the league championship again in 1957 so they could again enter the European Cup. Of course we all know what happened on that fateful day in 1958 when that marvellous young team was decimated in a plane accident. Almost exactly 3 months later l was born most certainly red and began my journey as a Manchester United supporter.
My United Story Part 2
I was born 7/5/1958 and my early life was spent learning Manchester United players names. The family legend is that my first word was Bobby (as in Charlton). Im not sure thats true but l know for sure that my father used to have answering first names with surnames such as Nobby.......Stiles Harry..........Gregg and so on through the whole squad. When l went to school l introduced myself as a Manchester United fan because l was so proud of it. My first experience of Old Trafford was in February 1966. My elder brother Tom took me to watch a 5th round FA Cup match against Rotherham. It was amazing for me the ground seemed incredibly huge and ld never seen so many people in one place before. We sat in the seats at the back of the Stretford End though much of the match everyone was stood up. The match was a forgettable 0-0 draw but l had seen players with legendary names for the first time in real life. Best Law and Charlton the wonderful Holy Trinity. My memories of the 1968 European Cup win are mainly of listening to matches from foreign countries on a crackly radio with my dad. Then we watched the home matches on a tiny black and white tv. The final was a huge day in my family all of us were crammed into one room to watch on the tv. It was the only time l remember my dad being late for a night shift because the match went into extra time. He wasnt too late because after United scored 3 goals in 9 minutes to make the score 4-1 he said l think l can go now. Back in those days most people were happy that United had won the European Cup and it was fantastic to be a supporter of the best team in Europe. My brother took me to matches periodically throughout the 60s perhaps the biggest highlight being an end of season match against Stoke City. Being sat in the seats of the ‘K’ stand and seeing those wonderful plus new boy lan Storey-Moore destroy a more than decent Stoke team and score 3 goals right in front of us was magical. Into the 70s we went and our first match standing in the Stretford End with my schoolfriend Frank. Sadly the team was on the decline and the match against Spurs was a 4-1 defeat. Not too long after that l started to go to matches without my brother. I distinctly remember going to night matches in the Anglo ltalian Cup when we played Fiorentina and Bari. We had a great start to the season 1971/72 when we seemed to be heading for the championship up to Christmas but afterwards we collapsed and lost match after match and ended up 8th. The manager at the time was a man called Frank O’Farrell who was a lovely man but quite obviously was not up to the job. The following season we were in serious trouble near the bottom of the table and just before Christmas we lost 5-0 to Crystal Palace and the manager was sacked and replaced by Tommy Docherty. He managed to keep us in the First Division that season but we were still struggling and were just about to lose 3 irreplaceables. At the end of the season Bobby Charlton retired Denis Law was given a free transfer and went to Manchester City and George Best had already walked out once but came back only to leave for good not long afterwards. You cannot buy players to replace such legends and we struggled for much of the season in the bottom 3. Eventually we got to the last 2 matches at home to City and away to Stoke that we had to win to have a chance to stay in the First Division. I remember the day so clearly, the Stretford End was packed like sardines and we actually didnt play too badly but much like many games that season we couldnt score. Towards the end of the match City broke away and Denis Law scored the only goal of the match with s backheel he didnt expect to beat Alex Stepney our then goalkeeper. Denis did not celebrate at all and was immediately substituted and never kicked a ball in league football again. The atmosphere in the Stretford End was passionately defiant and many thousands charged onto the pitch to sing “We’ll support you evermore” at the top of our voices. The match was abandoned and there would be later consequences. So that was that for the first time in 36 years United were relegated and it was initially very sad. But the defiance of the supporters was reflected throughout the club and the next 3 seasons were mine and many many people of my age group the best of our Manchester United supporting lives.
My United Story part 3
The aftermath of the pitch invasion during the City match season meant that the infamous Old Trafford fences were erected during the off season.
So here we were the famous Manchester United in the second division. The main transfer in the off season was centre forward (striker ) Stuart Pearson from Hull City a player manager Tommy Docherty knew from his time assisting at the club. First match of the season was away to Leyton Orient in London on a sunny day in mid August. This was the day when the Red Army was really born. Many many thousands of United fans travelled from Manchester and other parts of the country. Back in those days you could pay cash at the turnstile to get in. The away end was absolutely packed and United fans got in other parts of the ground too. Outside there were thousands locked out and many tried everything to watch match climbing trees and any other vantage point they could find. The match was a great start to life in the lower division with a 2-0 win with goals from captain Morgan and Houston. This was the way for most of the season as United won most matches and big home crowds and huge away following everywhere. Highlights of the season were drawing City in the 3rd round of the League Cup and winning 1-0 at Old Trafford with a Daly penalty. The League Cup seemed to be destined for our trophy cabinet until a surprise defeat to Norwich City who were also in the second division, the first leg at Old Trafford ended as a 2-2 draw thanks to a late equaliser from ex United striker Ted McDougall. The biggest match of the season was against Sunderland at Old Trafford between at the time the top 2 in the division. The match was an absolute classic that we won 3-2 with goals from Pearson Morgan and Mcllroy. The match is unique in the fact it is the only time a lower division match has been the main match on Match of the Day when first division matches have been played. We went out of the FA Cup in the 3rd round which was perhaps the most disappointing match of the season losing to Walsall in a replay. But the aim of the season was to get back into the top league which we managed comfortably and ended the season with a resounding 4-0 win at Old Trafford over Blackpool. The pitch invasion after this match was a far more joyous one than the previous season as the Red Army celebrated on the pitch. This season of 1974/75 is revered by most United fans of my generation as by far the best time to be a United fan. The Red Army was amazing travelling all over the country in vast numbers and taking over towns and grounds wherever we went. The home matches were also attended in great numbers to such an extent that United still had the highest average home crowds in the country whether we were in a lower division or not! My memories of this season are still so sharp in my mind l was young having just left school and started my college course. My whole life revolved around watching United and it was all l wanted to do the time between matches was painfully slow and boring but match days were incredibly exciting. So we had achieved our objective and bounced straight back into the top division and our young team were about to attack the games with much youthful and gusto the other teams couldnt imagine what was coming!