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Major Honours Premier League (20), FA Cup (12), League Cup (6), European Cup/UEFA Champions League (3), European Cup Winners’ Cup (1), UEFA Europa League (1)
Year Founded 1878

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Manchester United are the most successful domestic English club in history, but recent struggles have left the club needing to rebuild under new manager Erik ten Hag.

Manchester United are an English Premier League football club. Their home ground is Old Trafford – often referred to as the Theatre of Dreams – which has a capacity of 74,140.

Managed by Sir Matt Busby, Manchester United became the first European champions from England in 1968.

They are among an elite list of clubs to have won three different European tournaments – the European Cup Winners’ Cup, the UEFA Europa League (formerly known as the UEFA Cup), and the UEFA Champions League (previously known as the European Cup).

The club was also home to Sir Alex Ferguson, who managed United through their greatest period of success between 1986 and 2013.

During his tenure, United won 13 league titles, two Champions Leagues, five FA Cups and multiple other honours.

But, following Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, the club has failed to live up to their expected standards. After failed managerial stints by David Moyes, Louis van Gaal,  Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the club are now rebuilding under former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag.

The Dutchman’s first season in charge put them back on the right track, as he steered the club to their first silverware since 2017, when Manchester United beat Newcastle 2-0 in the Carabao Cup final.

Manchester United were ranked as the most valuable club in the world at £1.2billion in 2015 and during the 2016/17 season, they recorded the highest annual revenue in world soccer, generating an estimated £581.2million.

But due to poor performances in domestic and European competitions since, Manchester United recently fell two places to third in the list of the most valuable clubs worldwide, with Real Madrid and Barcelona overtaking them. 

American businessman Malcolm Glazer bought Manchester United in 2005 for £800million, with £500million of this being borrowed and added on to the debt of the club. In 2012, shares of the club were listed on the New York Stock Exchange, although the Glazer family still has majority ownership.

The Glazers have come under scrutiny several times during their reign in Manchester. Things reached fever pitch following United’s involvement in the breakaway European Super League, resulting in a fan protest that saw their fixture against Liverpool postponed.

The Sir Matt Busby era [1945 -1969]

Sir Matt Busby was Manchester United’s manager from 1945 to 1969 and again from 1970 to 1971. It was under his reign when the club enjoyed its first wave of major success in domestic and European soccer.

Busby took charge of the side when sport resumed following the end of the Second World War. By 1947, he had built Manchester United into title contenders, seeing his side finish runners-up in the 1946/47,1947/48 and 1948/49 seasons.

Despite these slight shortcomings, the Red Devils did at least claim the 1948 FA Cup, which was Busby’s first piece of silverware as United manager.

League honours followed in 1951/52 as the club ended their 41-year wait for a First Division title. Busby then won two more league titles in 1955/56 and 1956/57. His trust in youth was paying off in a big way and the media soon jumped on the bandwagon, famously branding United’s young squad the ‘Busby Babes’.

In 1957, United became the first English team to enter the European Cup. The 1958 Munich Air Disaster happened while on duty in this competition. The squad were on their way home from a quarter-final victory over Red Star Belgrade when a refuelling stop in the German city ended in disaster as the plane crashed during an attempted take off.

Twenty-three people died including eight players: Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Billy Whelan.

Busby and his assistant Jimmy Murphy rebuilt the squad and they eventually went on to win the European Cup in 1968 courtesy of a 4-1 victory over Benfica. They also claimed the 1964/65 and 1966/67 league titles as well as the 1963 FA Cup.

Busby resigned in 1969 but returned for a brief spell in December 1970. This came following the sacking of Wilf McGuinness.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy at Old Trafford

Manchester United entered a period of relative stagnation following the departure of Busby. The next 17 years saw the club face relegation from the top tier, a second division title victory and three FA Cup wins. All of this took place under five permanent managers, not including Busby’s brief return.

Ron Atkinson’s departure in late 1986 saw Alex Ferguson appointed as the club’s next manager and few would have predicted he would remain in charge for 27 years.

Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford from Aberdeen with his assistant, Archie Knox. When the pair arrived, United were on the brink of relegation but the new managerial team led them to an 11th-place finish.

After a fruitless few years despite high transfer spending, the Scot was reportedly set to lose his job, but victory in the 1989/90 FA Cup final over Crystal Palace played a pivotal role in Ferguson keeping his position with the Manchester outfit.

From that point on, the club entered a second wave of major success, not seen since the days of Busby.

One season after the FA Cup win, Ferguson led United to the Cup Winners’ Cup and the 1991 UEFA Super Cup. In 1992, United picked up a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest at Wembley to lift the League Cup.

A year later came arguably their most important accolade, the 1992/93 league title; United’s first since 1967.

The season after, Ferguson went further by winning the league and FA Cup double; the club’s first.

United went on to win another double in the 1995/96 season, becoming the first English club to do a double of doubles. Ferguson retained the league title a season later meaning he had won four of the previous five Premier League crowns.

The 1998/99 season will undoubtedly go down as one of the most successful in Manchester United’s history as Ferguson led the Red Devils to a ‘Treble’ by winning the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League.

The European Cup final is seen as being one of the greatest ever. United were 1-0 down to Bayern Munich in added time before two late goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer secured the most dramatic of victories.

Three more league titles followed over the next four years, with the club also adding more silverware by winning the FA Cup and League Cup. 

Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger shared the three league crowns between the 2003/04 and 2005/06 campaigns, but United came back to win the following three successive Premier League titles.

More European success followed for Ferguson in 2008 when his side beat Chelsea on penalties to lift the Champions League trophy for a second time under his tenure. The club also won the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup.

United won two more league titles under Ferguson in the 2010/11 and the 2012/13 seasons. The latter took the club’s total to 20, with these wins surpassing Liverpool’s then record of 18 (currently 19). This final Premier League title was also the last season in which Ferguson would manage the Red Devils.

All in all, the Scot won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, 10 Community Shields, two Champions Leagues, a European Cup Winners’ Cup, a European Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup.

The post-Ferguson era [2013-present]

In May 2013, it was announced that Ferguson would retire as manager at the end of the season. The man chosen to replace him was fellow Scot and then-Everton manager David Moyes, who was given a six-year contract. 

However, Moyes was unable to finish his first season with the club due to a poor run of results which eventually saw United end the campaign in seventh. Their low finish meant that United failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since the 1995/96 season.

The club also missed out on Europa League soccer, the first time they had missed out on any kind of European competition since 1990. 

Club legend Ryan Giggs stepped in to replace Moyes before Dutchman Louis van Gaal was given the job on a permanent basis. Under his stewardship, Van Gaal guided United to Champions League qualification, but was unable to make any further significant progress.

Victory in the 2016 FA Cup final saw United clinch their first piece of silverware since 2013, but this wasn’t enough to save Van Gaal’s job, as he was sacked just days later.

Jose Mourinho took over the role and despite finishing sixth in the league, enjoyed a successful debut season in 2016/17 by winning the League Cup, the Community Shield and the Europa League for the first time in the club’s history.

The season after, Mourinho led United to a second-place finish – their highest since 2013. Despite this, many were left disappointed as the club still trailed the champions, bitter local rivals Manchester City, by a huge 19 points.

In December 2018, the club decided to terminate Mourinho’s contract after a bad run of results which saw the club drop to sixth in the standings, 19 points behind the league leaders and 11 points short of the Champions League places.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the reins on a temporary basis before earning a permanent contract as a reward for his results.

In his first full season, he led United to three semi-finals in the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup and the Europa League. He also bagged a third-place finish in the Premier League to secure Champions League qualification.

Under Solskjaer’s stewardship, United reached the Europa League final in the 2020/21 season, but lost 11-10 to Villarreal on penalties after a 1-1 draw. They also finished second to Manchester City in the Premier League during the campaign.

The following summer saw Solskjaer spend big, bringing in the likes of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, despite their star-studded squad, United suffered a torrid start to the league.

A 5-0 humiliation at the hands of rivals Liverpool piled the pressure on Solskjaer, and subsequent losses to Manchester City and Watford proved to be his last in charge. He was sacked in November 2021.

Caretaker manager Michael Carrick oversaw a win over Villarreal and a draw with Chelsea, before former RB Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick was named the interim manager until the end of the season. But they floundered under Rangnick as they stumbled home sixth in the Premier League.

United announced in April 2022 that Ajax manager Erik ten Hag would succeed Rangnick at Old Trafford, with the Dutchman signing until 2025.

The Dutchman improved the culture and quality at Old Trafford, and brought Manchester United their first trophy since 2017.

They ended their longest trophy drought in 40 years by beating Newcastle 2-0 at Wembley in the Carabao Cup final, where Casemiro’s header and a Sven Botman own goal settled things.

Manchester United’s biggest domestic rivals are Liverpool. The rivalry mostly stems from the fact they are the two most successful clubs in England. Between them, they have won 39 league titles, nine European Cups, 19 FA Cups and a host of other major honours.

Games between Manchester United and Liverpool are always singled out due to their stature. It is a fixture that’s considered to be the biggest game in English football. 

United also have a rivalry with Leeds United. This is a regional rivalry that stems back to the War of the Roses. In this context, Manchester United represents Lancashire (or the House of Lancaster) while Leeds represents Yorkshire (the House of York).

United also has a rivalry with Arsenal which dates back to the personal managerial enmity between Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger in the early 2000s.

Manchester United’s other significant rivals are Manchester City. The fixture between the two clubs is known as the Manchester derby and is a highly anticipated game on the English soccer calendar. 

The first game between the two clubs took place back in 1881 and since then there have been over 180 encounters, most of them won by United. With the rise of Manchester City over these past few years, the rivalry has only intensified.

Other rivals include fellow Premier League side Chelsea and European giants Bayern Munich.

The number seven jersey at Man United has become a symbol of great significance. This is due to the legendary players who have worn the shirt throughout United’s history.

Irishman Johnny Giles wore the jersey in the early 1960s before his departure to Leeds United.

England legend and 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles also wore the famous jersey towards the end of his legendary career with Manchester United.

George Best is arguably one of the greatest players to wear the jersey, having represented the club in the 1960s and 1970s.

Man United have seen some of the world’s best players come and go through their doors. 

In recent times, the club was home to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and many others.

The highest transfer fee ever paid by the club was for Frenchman Paul Pogba, who joined United from Juventus back in 2016/17 for just short of £95million.

Manchester United finances

In September 2022, Forbes ranked Manchester United third in its most valuable club list at $4.6billion.