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Walter Crickmer, 1931-1932 and 1937-1945. 

Although Walter 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.

After 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 1939-45.

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. 

A.Scott Duncan, 1932-1937. 

Former Dumbarton, 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 annum.

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 and 1970-71. 

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 years.

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. 

Jimmy Murphy, February-August 1958.

Welsh international 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.

Shortly afterwards 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. 

Wilf McGuinness, 1969-70. 

When United 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.

McGuinness had 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. 

 

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This site is in no way connected with Manchester United Football Club PLC. It is simply a personal website, painstakingly put together by me as a tribute to my team.

This site was created and is maintained by Chris Beirne. Quotes and images not my own remain in the copyright of the originator or else in the public domain. The information contained in this web site is intended for entertainment, educational, historical, and informational purposes only.