1931-1932 and 1937-1945.
Crickmer never assumed the title of Manager of Manchester United, he twice
dovetailed the duties of team selection with those of his post as club
Secretary. One of the finest administrators in United’s history, Crickmer
first took charge of the team, along with Louis Rocca, in 1931-32, between
the reigns of Herbert Bamlett and Scott Duncan.
resigned in November 1937, United were without a Manager until the
appointment of Matt Busby in 1945. Once again, Crickmer helped out with
the playing affairs, and his job took him through the troubled years of
It was Crickmer
who, in 1938, was largely responsible for instituting the famous United
youth policy that served the club so well in subsequent years. He was
appointed Secretary in 1926, and lost his life in the Munich air disaster,
after 38 years with United.
Glasgow Rangers and Newcastle United player Scott Duncan was offered the
post of United Manager in August 1932, at a salary reported to be £800 per
In his first two
seasons he spent a great deal of money, buying several players from his
native Scotland, and he came under fire from newspapers and supporters for
failing to produce good results, despite his financial outlay.
Duncan had played
once for United during World War One. His signings as Manager included
Scottish internationals Neil Dewar from Third Lanark and Chambers from
Cowdenbeath, together with Shamrock Rovers’ Irish international, Byrne,
and Welsh international Bamford from Wrexham.
He saw United
narrowly escape relegation in 1933-34, but two years later steered them to
the Second Division Championship. The success was followed by the offer of
a five-year contract for the Manager, but United were not equipped for
life in Division One, and a year later they were down again.
After the first 14
games of 1938-39, Duncan resigned and became Manager of Ipswich Town, who
were then in the Southern League. He took them into the Football League,
whilst United’s first game after his departure, a 7-1 win at Chesterfield,
began a run which secured the promotion once more, despite having no
‘proper’ Manager for the rest of the season.
Apart from the
Second Division Championship, Duncan, who also managed Hamilton and
Cowdenbeath, made little impact at Old Trafford.
Sir Matt Busby, 1945-69
When the Manchester
United directors appointed Matt Busby Manager in 1045, they made probably
the most significant decision in the club’s history. Like Ernest Mangnall
before him, Busby brought glory to the club….and in Busby’s case it was to
find a stage wider than anyone could have imagined in Mangnall’s days
before World War One.
Busby, the son of a
Scottish miner, was a stylish half-back with Manchester City and Liverpool
before World War Two, and although he won only one full cap for Scotland,
he skippered his country in several wartime internationals.
Busby inherited a
club with no home, for Old Trafford had been severely damaged in the war.
His team played their home matches at Maine Road as he began to rebuild
from the ashes. Busby moulded together his first great team under Captain
Johnny Carey. They went on to win the FA Cup in 1948, in a Final of
breathtaking skill and excitement, and with the addition of talented
youth, lifted the Championship in 1952; the clubs first League title in 41
In their first six
seasons under Busby, United never finished lower than fourth. At his side
was Jimmy Murphy, and they formed a partnership which could spot raw
talent and then nurture it to greatness. Roger Byrne, Tommy Taylor, Duncan
Edwards and Bobby Charlton were just some of the players who stand
testament to their joint skills.
Busby took United
to consecutive League titles, in 1956 and 1957, and in the second of those
years he came close to winning for the Reds the first modern ‘double’ of
League and Cup. By then, his quest for the European Cup had started and by
now United were one of the best club sides in the world.
The European dream
was shattered at Munich, where Busby suffered injuries so severe that he
was administered the Last Rites. He also had to suffer the cruel knowledge
that he had lost many of his young players. Busby was absent from his desk
for six months.
With Jimmy Murphy,
he began to assemble a new United. Law, Herd, Crerand,Cantwell and others
were drafted in and United won the FA Cup again in 1963, narrowly missing
relegation the same season, and the League Championship in 1965.
A Championship two
years later set the stage for another attempt at the European Cup, and
this time Busby’s dream was realised. United lifted the trophy with a
magnificent win over Benfica at Wembley, and he and Bobby Charlton shed
tears of joy together. The players had sensed it was Busby’s last chance
to win the major European club honour.
He made way for
Wilf McGuinness, but retained the post of General Manager. When McGuinness
was relieved of his job in December 1970, Busby took charge once more,
steering United away from trouble. He left the Manager’s chair in 1971, a
quarter of a century after he was first appointed.
Sir Matt Busby, he
was knighted in the wake of United’s European triumph, maintained close
links with the club and the city. He was made a Freeman of Manchester in
1968, appointed a United director and then the club’s President.
In 1945, he was
offered jobs as a Coach at Liverpool, assistant-Manager of Reading, and
Manager of Ayr United. He turned them all down for a £15 per week job as
Manager of Manchester United. Four years later, Spurs offered him £50 a
week to become their Manager. Every United fan, young or old, can be
eternally thankful that he turned them down.
wing-half Jimmy Murphy was with West Brom from 1928 to the outbreak of
war. He served in Italy, where he met Matt Busby, and when Busby was
offered the United Manager’s job in 1945, Murphy was his first ‘signing’.
He was initially employed as Coach and, always Busby’s right-hand man, he
was officially appointed assistant-Manager in 1955.
he became the Wales team Manager, and around this time was offered
lucrative jobs in Brazil and with Italian giants, Juventus.
A talented Coach,
Murphy guided the development of many fine players, but he regarded Duncan
Edwards as the finest footballer he ever saw.
When the United
party flew to Belgrade in 1958, Murphy missed the trip because he was on
International duty with the Welsh team for a World Cup qualifier at
Cardiff. In the wake of the Munich tragedy, he took charge of United and
led them to the 1958 FA Cup Final. In August that year, Murphy made way
for the return of Busby. He had been a monumental tower of strength in the
months following the disaster.
An avid reader and
pianist in the classical mould, Murphy resigned as assistant Manager in
1971, although he continued to scout for the club he has served for over
25 years. He died on 14 November 1989.
appointed Wilf McGuinness as successor to Sir Matt Busby in 1969, no one
doubted the enormity of his task. Although he had already served the club
for almost 17 years, he faced a daunting situation as replacement for one
of the game’s greatest Managers, in one of the most prestigious managerial
seats in the business.
His playing career
ended through injury when he was only 22, and he joined United’s training
staff. McGuinness was involved in the preparation of several England
teams, including the 1966 World Cup squad, and on 9 April 1969 it was
announced he was being appointed United’s chief Coach in readiness for
Busby’s retirement at the end of the season.
On 1 June 1969 he
was given the Manager’s job; in December 1970, he lost the position and
reverted to trainer-coach of the reserve team. The concept of promoting
from within had not worked for United and McGuinness had probably found it
difficult to manage players who were established Internationals, and who
had achieved so much more than him as a player.
achieved minor success as United’s Manager, two League Cup semi-finals and
one FA Cup semi- final, bur he could not provide the League and European
glory that the club so desperately needed.
He later managed
the Greek club, Aris Salonika, and then York City. In 1986, McGuinness was
on the coaching staff at Bury and much sought after for his wit as an
after-dinner speaker. He spoke at the 1986 PFA Annual Awards dinner.