Major’s reputation extends all the way back to when Manchester United was still known as Newton Heath. In 1901, it appeared that the club might not survive its catastrophic financial situation.
For the sake of his club, team captain Harry Stafford would bring his dog, Major, to every game with a collection tin attached to his neck. In desperation, as the club’s financial losses grew, a bazaar was staged to raise funds. Naturally, Stafford brought his pet.
And this was the defining event in American history.
In the middle of the bazaar, the dog got lost. Stafford diligently searched for his cherished Saint Bernard for four days before receiving word that Major had made his way to a brewery, where he was being kept in good spirits.
When Stafford arrived to retrieve his dog, he discovered that John Henry Davies, the owner of the brewery, wanted to retain Major to present to his daughter. Stafford, sensing a chance to salvage Newton Heath, made a deal with the wealthy brewer: Davies could keep Major if he kept Newton Heath funded. Davies agreed, and he paid off the obligations and assumed possession. Moreover, he continued to provide the club with finances for player transfers and infrastructure upgrades, and the team was on its way to becoming the English Football powerhouses they are today.
Simply simply, Major is a club legend, as Manchester United would not exist without him.
Sir Matt Busby
The Busby Babes, United’s first European Championship, and a period of persistent prosperity.
There is a reason why Sir Matt Busby has both a statue and a boulevard named after him at Old Trafford (Sir Matt Busby Way). It is difficult to envisage Manchester United as it is today if Sir Matt had not implemented his principles and approach in the 1950s.
Sir Matt Busby understood the club’s longstanding aim to be a Manchester team of the city of Manchester better than any other United manager prior to Sir Alex Ferguson’s arrival. He realized that the team would fail if they continued to overpay for high-priced players from other clubs and did not rely on youth to bring them through.
Sir Matt, with the assistance of Jimmy Murphy, assembled a young, skilled team for this purpose (and Mancunians). This group, subsequently dubbed “The Busby Babes,” grabbed the nation by storm.
In addition to players such as Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, and Bobby Charlton, the Babes also included veterans such as goalkeeper Harry Gregg. They appeared unstoppable, playing the game according to Sir Matt’s instructions.
In fact, after all the training and exercises (yet another innovation by Sir Matt at Old Trafford), the only thing the manager would typically say to the players before a game was, “Go play.”
It took a tragedy to end the Babes’ promise, but Sir Matt persisted long after his own recovery. He would go on to oversee the club’s first prolonged spell of success and be the best manager in United’s history until another Scotsman ascended to the throne.
At the time, Duncan Edwards was the best player in the world and was expected to lead England to World Cup victory.
Duncan Edwards’ thighs were the size of tree trunks, and his kicks reflected this. However, the young boy could also play like a dream. Obviously, I wasn’t there, but everything I’ve read about him describes a guy with an incredible first touch, good speed, dexterity, dribbling ability, and an unstoppable shot. He was a combination of Lionel Messi’s control and Wayne Rooney’s strength, Zinedine Zidane’s cunning and Paul Scholes’ class.
If he had survived the catastrophe at Munich, he could have gone on to become the greatest player of all time.
His legend has continued, if not increased, in a different manner. Before he could truly make his impact on the game, he was snatched from this world too soon. Everyone who has heard the name “Big Dunc” would reflect on what may have been for United and England. A tragic legend, he is yet one of the greatest to ever set foot on Old Trafford.
Harry Gregg is well-known for being “Munich’s Hero.”
In addition to being one of the top goalkeepers in England at the time of his United career, Harry Gregg was also one of the Munich survivors. Moreover, he was one of the few players who actually (physically) survived reasonably uninjured.
After regaining consciousness, the large keeper went back into the aircraft in an attempt to save as many lives as possible. I will allow Harry Gregg to recount the incident himself, as I cannot do him credit with a summary.
“We departed once more, and I recall looking out the window and seeing a tree and a house pass by; and then all of a sudden, everything went black and sparks began to fly. When I was struck in the back of the head, I believed the top of my skull had been severed.
“The airplane landed on its side, inverted. There were no tears. There was nothing but silence and darkness, followed by a moment of daylight. I believed I was dead, so I sat there in silence while a bizarre thought entered my mind. I recalled thinking that I had a good life, a wonderful family, and that I could not speak German!
“As I heard a loud hissing sound all around me, I realized I was still alive. I unbuckled my seatbelt and began to exit the vehicle. Captain Thain emerged with a fire extinguisher and instructed me to flee in its direction.
“When I exited the plane, I saw five people sprinting for it, and Thain yelled, ‘Run, you idiot, the plane is about to explode!’ I was about to run when I heard a child wailing.
“I yelled at them, ‘Come back, you cretins! There’s a child alive!’ but they did not return, so I walked back inside, scared of what I would find. I discovered the infant and began to carry it out. The radio operator took the girl from me, and when I returned to the rubble, I saw her mother in critical condition. I punched a hole in the aircraft’s fuselage and pushed her out.
“I discovered Albert Scanlon, who was severely injured, and tried to free him, but he was bound by his feet and I was unable to move him.
“The Daily Mail photographer Peter Howard was with Albert, keeping him company. I raced to the rear of the aircraft, where I discovered Bobby Charlton and Denis Viollet lying still. I believed they were deceased, so I dragged their bodies, like rag dolls, into the seats that had been flung around 20 yards from the jet. I began to shout out for Jackie.
“As I searched for him, I observed the plane’s tail end engulfed in flames. Matt Busby, who was conscious but grasping his chest in distress and wailing “my legs, my legs,” was discovered by me. I raised him up and discovered Blanchie crying, with Roger Byrne dead on top of him.
“Jackie’s arm was severely injured and bleeding profusely, so I used my tie to apply a tourniquet. I tugged it with such force that it broke in two, but I still managed to bind his arm with what was left.
“Suddenly, a man in a long trench coat with a syringe entered the room. I yelled at him to go assist the injured on board, but blasts from the burning part of the airplane knocked him off his feet. It was a peculiar sight to see him face-down in the snow with his legs in the air and a syringe in his palm.
“When I turned around, I received the biggest shock of my life since Denis and Bobby were standing nearby, observing the fire. I was very relieved, as I believed they were deceased. When it appeared like the rescuers had the situation under control, I fell to my knees and wept, thanking God that some of us had been rescued. I had never witnessed death before and vowed never to do so again.
Gregg rescued Sir Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton, Denis Vioolet, as well as a woman and child. He is not only a legendary figure, but also a true hero.
Sir Bobby Charlton
Sir Bobby’s contributions to the club are innumerable, and we could list them forever. He was voted the fourth greatest United player ever on Manchester United’s official website (behind Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona, and George Best), he has the second most appearances for Manchester United and the League (both trailing Ryan Giggs), and he is England’s fourth-most capped player behind Bobby Moore, Peter Shilton, and David Beckham.
He is one of the game’s finest servants and his statue in front of Old Trafford is well-deserved.
George Best is best known for being the fifth Beatle, a member of United’s Trinity, and the phrase “Maradona good, Pele better, George Best.”
The wiry Irishman who imbued the No. 7 shirt at Old Trafford with its aura of mystery is probably the game’s most talented player. The only issue is that his legacy has been terribly damaged by alcoholism and womanizing, rendering it volatile and capricious. Similar to Duncan Edwards, but in a different way, Best was a gifted player who was cut from the game far too early, leaving fans to wonder, “What if?”
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson’s mythology is still being written, but as he nears the conclusion of his career, it is getting increasingly emotional to reflect on the high points of his career.
He entered a club that had lost direction. The players lacked discipline, the young squad was a joke, and the first team had grown accustomed to defeat. Sir Matt Busby’s beliefs that he had instilled in the club were forgotten.
Sir Alex, like Sir Matt before him, stepped in and cleared away all the cobwebs, constructing a winning legacy based on a combination of youth and seasoned leadership. He has led the team through its most consistent spell of success and appears significantly younger than other managers his age.
Throughout his early career, Eric Cantona was a troublesome figure. He was volatile, hostile, ineffective, and a burden to all of his managers. He was exactly what Sir Alex required.
Prior to King Cantona’s arrival at United, continuous success was elusive. However, Sir Alex saw that the erratic Frenchman was not the nuisance that everyone believed him to be. Instead, “Le Roi” was arguably the most passionate player to ever lace up a pair of boots, and his temper tantrums were a result of his excessive desire for perfection. In other words, he was the ideal leader for his team comprised of young Fledglings.
Cantona’s legend flourished following an ill-conceived kung-fu kick at a fan and the subsequent magnificent press conference. The only words he uttered were: “Seagulls follow the trawler because they believe sardines will be tossed into the water. Thank you a great deal.”
Salute the king!
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Known For: Winning the Treble.
Although he was never the best player, he possessed an unfailing ability to score goals. Sir Alex brought him in in the 1999 Champion’s League final with United trailing 1-0 with the intention of him scoring.
The rest is history, and people continue to discuss that last-second goal to this day.
Ryan Giggs is renowned for destroying Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup and essentially destroying everyone since his arrival.
Ignore Ryan Giggs’ off-field issues. The one-club Welsh Wizard who defies time has been one of United’s finest players ever. He has scored in every Premier League season to date, holding the records for most appearances at United and the League, and has won two Champion’s League crowns as well as several Premier League and FA Cup trophies while wearing a United jersey. If he had represented England, he may have already won a World Cup.
He is the quintessential United player: diligent, skilled, and classy (on the field). Never mind Manchester United; he is one of the game’s greatest legends.