Manchester United was formed in 1878 and were initially known as Newton Heath LYR Football Club. With a team composed of railway workers, they played against teams comprised of other train company employees. In 1902 they renamed themselves Manchester United and in 1910 they moved to the “theatre of dreams”, Old Trafford.
Man U were never really a force in English football until the arrival of manager Matt Busby in 1945, when the English football league began to resume activities after the disruptions of WWII. Busby controlled every aspect of the team and drove them to success. His “Busby babes” were the most talented, feared side in the country.
Then, in 1958, disaster struck. Manchester United had just beaten Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup, when their plane crashed in Munich, killing most of the first team. Busby himself survived and set about building a new team, based around legendary footballers such as Denis Law and George Best.
United were a successful team for the following decades, although they never matched the remarkable achievements of their neighbours Liverpool. The 80s saw a decline in United’s fortune and this is when Alex Ferguson took up the throne of Matt Busby. After his rocky start, he built a team with new legends: Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona, Mark Hughes, Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistlerooy, Wayne Rooney and the most famous footballer of his generation, David Beckham.
Soccer has become big business since then. United have benefited from this, and also been one of the reasons soccer has become so popular. The United brand is worth almost $750 million, making it more valuable then even Real Madrid, and geographically Manchester United have a bigger following than any club on Earth, with fans all across Europe, Asia and the US.
Although proud of their history, United are now owned by Americans. In 2005, Malcolm Glazer purchased a controlling share of the club, adding it to a portfolio of sports assets that includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The presence of the Glazer family at Old Trafford has not always been popular with fans; they “leveraged debt” to buy the club, essentially meaning that they mortgaged it before they had purchased it. Some fans point to the debt repayments as something that has held Ferguson back from complete domination of world soccer.
However, the club remains massively successful. Despite the huge money pumped into the EPL by rivals Chelsea and Manchester City, they continue to win the title on a regular basis. And in 2008, Ferguson led his team to a second victory in soccer’s most important competition: the Champion’s League.
So much of Manchester United’s success comes down to this one man: the angry, energetic Scotsman who drives every squad to the pinnacle of soccer success. He is 71 now and keeps threatening to retire, although it seems that his love of the game is too strong. What will happen to Manchester United after he leaves? It’s hard to say. The one thing we know for sure is this: the toughest job in the history of soccer will be being Alex Ferguson’s successor.