Football's dream team

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 June, 2004, 12:00am

Manchester United is probably the most famous football club in the world. It has millions of devoted fans not just in Britain but around the globe. Fifty years ago, the team's dynamic manager, Matt Busby, was not content with the Red Devils being the best football team in England. He wanted them to be Kings of the World.

Busby had a vision that would take the name of Man U well beyond the city of Manchester and the United Kingdom and he sowed the seeds of the global fame that his beloved team now enjoys.

The story of Manchester United goes back a long way. In 1878, a group of railway workers in the Manchester suburb of Newton Heath got together to form a football team to play against other railway workers in the region. Soon Newton Heath Football Club were the best team in the area, winning the Manchester Cup final in 1886. But their local success did not put them among England's best teams and, when the Football League was formed in 1887, Newton Heath were not included.

'The Railwaymen' plodded on and by 1892 they were good enough to join the First Division of the Football League. But the team found success at the top hard to hang on to, and two years later, they were relegated to the Second Division. Money problems then threatened the team with bankruptcy and 'The Railwaymen' were on the verge of disbanding when four Manchester businessmen came up with a plan to save them.

A local beer manufacturer agreed to invest large sums of money in the team, but he insisted on a change of name. A number of names including Manchester Celtic and Manchester Central were considered and finally Manchester United was chosen.

In 1906, the new team won promotion back into the First Division and only two years later United won the First Division title for the first time. In 1910, the team moved to their third ground at Old Trafford and a new chapter in the club's story opened.

Over the next 30 years, United had their highs and lows like all the other football clubs in Britain. During the second world war, German bombs had destroyed Old Trafford but they had not destroyed the spirit of the team. Busby, the new manager, was faced with rebuilding the team and the ground and by the end of the 1947-48 season, United were second in the First Division. Busby had brought together a star-studded squad packed with brilliant young players and future internationals.

United piled up trophies in the 1950s, but in February 1958, a terrible tragedy struck. Returning from a match in Europe, the plane carrying the team crashed at Munich airport in Germany. Seven players were killed and Busby himself was seriously injured.

Two weeks after the disaster, the team, patched up with reserve players and new signings, played a match in front of 60,000 sobbing fans. They got through to the FA Cup final that year, but it was another five years before they were really back in top form.

Old Trafford is often called 'The Theatre of Dreams', a place where dreams come true or are shattered. It is the heart of the greatest and most famous football team the sport has ever created.

How much do you know about Manchester United?

1. When was the team first formed?

2. What was the team's first name?

3. In 1887, what position did the team have in the Football League?

4. What was the team's first nickname?

5. Why was the name of the team changed to Manchester United?

6. When did the team move to Old Trafford?

7. Who was Manchester United's manager after the Second World War?

8. When was the Munich air disaster?

9. How many members of the team lost their lives in the crash?

10. What do the fans call Old Trafford?

Answers: 1. The team was first formed in 1878.

2. It was called the Newton Heath Football Club.

3. The team was not part of the Football League.

4. They were called 'The Railwaymen'.

5. The name was changed when a local businessman saved the team from bankruptcy.

6. Manchester United began playing at Old Trafford in 1910.

7. Matt Busby was the club's first post-war manager.

8. The Munich air cash occurred in February 1958.

9. Seven players died in the crash.

10. Fans often call Old Trafford 'The Theatre of Dreams'.