In 1878, a group of railways workers, employed in the Carriage and Wagon department for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, founded Newton Heath LYR.
Those young men living out their passion for football in the now extinct yellow and green strip couldn’t have possibly comprehended the empire which was set to be built from their discovery.
LYR stood for “Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway” to represent their association with the company and industry. They began by playing a number of other departments in the local railway industry and was funded by the company itself.
The company paid the lease on its first home ground on a railway yard on North Road and began competing competitively in the Lancashire Cup in 1983. By 1984, Newton Heath LYR was accepted into the Manchester and District Challenge Cup and fare relatively well by reaching the final.
However, Newton Heath suffered a 3-0 defeat against Hurst, after successfully scoring three goals in each of the previous knockout rounds. After winning the competition in four of the following five years, Newton Heath began to realize their potential.
In 1886, the club signed reputable individuals such as Jack Powell, Tom Burke and Jack and Roger Doughty. It was seemingly the beginning of a promising chapter, but a dispute in their first ever FA Cup tie led to them refusing to compete in the tournament until 1989.
Joining the Football League, Eventually!
The Football League was founded in 1888, but Newton Heath believed they lacked the quality to compete with the founding members. Therefore, they joined a breakaway league named “The Combination,” but it was unable to compete its inaugural season due to a dysfunctional fixture schedule and financial difficulties.
Although “The Combination” was reincarnated just months later, Newton Heath opted to join the Football Alliance. They still persistently attempted to seek acceptance into the coveted Football League and were granted their wish when the Football Alliance merged with the Football League in 1892.
Newton Heath started out their new chapter in the Football League in the First Division and immediately dropped the “LYR” from the club name. The team had begun to employ players from other areas, although many players were still employed by the railway firm.
Club secretary A.H. Albut was technically the club’s first full-time official, as he assumed the majority of the managerial duties. The Football League proved to be a difficult step-up in competition for Newton Heath and they lasted just two seasons in the First Division.
This marked the beginning of a turbulent period for the club, who struggled to attain promotion and sunk under the pressure of financial difficulties. Therefore, the club decided to hold a four-day boot sale to raise money to dig the club out of its monetary issues.
The Creation of Manchester United Football Club
History tells an extraordinary story in the foundation of Manchester United Football Club. Club captain Harry Stafford’s dog named major reportedly escaped with a collection tin on one of the evenings. The collection box was abandoned and later found by local brewer John Henry Davies, who rather than taking the contents from the tin himself, ultimately saved the club from administration.
Newton Heath had found themselves swimming in a debt of £242.00, but Harry Stafford organized a meeting with Davies to formulate a rescue plan. Eventually, the pair along with two other investors coughed up £2,000 to save the club from liquidation.
However, one change was required in their agreement, and that was that the club would be renamed “Manchester United Football Club.” Other names such as “Manchester Central” and “Manchester Celtic” had been considered, but they eventually decided on Manchester United and made another revolutionary alteration by switching from their original yellow and green strip to play in red and white.
The Ernest Mangnall Era
Manchester United employed Ernest Mangnall to take over the duties of the club secretary. He’s deemed the first club manager, as he took over the responsibilities of that of a modern-day manager. Mangnall was praised for his charismatic personality and charm and ability to manipulate the media and his contributions had a positive impact on the club.
They still found it difficult to escape from the Second Division and came close on a number of occasions to securing a return to the First Division. After three years at the helm, Mangnall eventually guaranteed promotion to the First Division by finishing second-place in 1906 and Manchester United also reached the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
Billy Meredith was the stand-out performer for The Red Devils and is believed to be the greatest player of his generation. The influx of new signings also included Herbet Burgess, Alec Turnbull and Jimmy Bannister, as Manchester United capitalized on a scandal that hit Manchester City in the late 1900s.
It intensified the rivalry between the two Manchester clubs, but their deceitful decision paid dividends when Manchester United won their first ever League Championship in 1908 with a squad containing a large majority of former Manchester City players.
The club were taking a colossal step in the right direction and the trophies continued to spill into the trophy cabinet. Meredith was instrumental to their success and his selfless role on the wing to assist goalscoring phenomenon Sandy Turnbull, who scored 90 goals in 220 appearances for the club.
Manchester United won the Charity Shield in 1908 with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers and bagged the biggest prize in English football during the following season with a dramatic 1-0 win over Bristol City in the FA Cup final.
John Henry Davies grew excited by the club’s rapid progress and paid £60,000 to complete their switch to a new stadium at Old Trafford. Manchester United once again won the First Division title and Charity Shield in 1911, but Mangnall announced his departure to fierce rivals Manchester City at the end of the season.
An Unwelcome Decline
The contributions of Mangnall were only truly appreciated once he left Old Trafford. The club began to regress following his departure and found themselves fighting relegation by the end of the 1914/15 season.
It was to be a sour end to a truly inspirational era. After escaping relegation by a mere one point in 1912, the Football Association banned the Manchester United players for life after they were found guilty of match fixing in the 1915 British football betting scandal.
The Football League was then suspended once the First World War started in 1914 and Manchester United soon learnt of the loss of their former star Sandy Turnbull, who was tragically killed during battle in France.
Manchester United had to continue paying maintenance costs for Old Trafford, despite the outbreak of the First World War. This created another spell of uncertainty for the club and they suffered relegation just three years after the Football League had resumed in 1922.
It took Manchester United until 1925 to return to the First Division with new manager John Chapman guiding them to a runners-up spot behind Leicester City in the Second Division. Sadly, John Henry Davies, who was seen as a hero for rescuing the club from liquidation, died in October 1927.
G.H. Lawton was selected as his successor as club president, but Manchester United had another dilemma to overcome when Chapman was suspended by the Football Association for “improper conduct” during the 1926/27 campaign.
Lal Hilditch came into steady the ship for the remainder of the season, until he was permanently replaced by Herbert Bamlett. Manchester United would be heading towards another downward spiral under his guidance and eventually succumbed to relegation once again by finishing bottom of the First Division in 1931.
The finances once again slumped and attendances decreased following their relegation to the Second Division. Secretary Walter Crickmer succeeded Bamlett, but the bank was empty at Old Trafford.
With unpaid players and a club in disarray, it seemed that the club was preparing for the possibility of the club going out of business. Another rescue mission was required and James. W. Gibson swooped to the rescue and took over as chairman to in December 1931.
Gibson requested to operate the club himself, without outside interference, and Gibson invested £30,000 into the club. Scott Duncan arrived to take the role as manager, but although the financial situation was less bleak, the performances on the pitch were extremely underwhelming.
Manchester United sat in a precarious position on the final day of the 1933/34 season. It remains their lowest position in the club’s history, but they defeated Millwall in the final fixture to send their South London opponents into the Third Division.
This marked another surge in form and Manchester United returned to the First Division in 1936, after enjoying an astounding unbeaten run spanning 19 games in the latter stages of the season. They then became a “yoyo club” and toyed between the First Division and Second Division until the outbreak of World War II.
Old Trafford was utilized as a depot by the military during WW2 and two German bombing raids in 1940 and 1941 respectively largely destroyed the stadium. Therefore, Gibson was granted £22,278 to rebuild the stadium, and Manchester United had to play their home games at the home of Manchester City until the rebuilding process was completed.
The early history of Manchester United was beautiful and horrendous in equal measure and undoubtedly eventful. However, following the conclusion of World War II, a certain Sir Matt Busby would build the foundations for continuous success and propel The Red Devils to new heights.
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