Who Are Manchester United?

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  • Post published:June 11, 2024

Who are Manchester United? The Red Devils are hoping to restore former glories after a tough decade…


While many football clubs of the era were formed by universities or churches, Manchester United came into being in 1878 as Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway FC.

Workers in the Carriage and Wagon department of the Newton Heath depot, about 4.5 km from Manchester’s city centre, initially played against other departments or railway companies, and it was not until 1892 that they joined the English Football League, by which time the team had become independent of the railway company and was a football club in its own right: Newton Heath.


The club initially played in the colours of the railway company, black and gold, but changed to red and white in 1902. That was after four local businessmen each invested £500 to save the club as it battled with debts of £2 670, the equivalent of R7.5 million in 2024.

The team was about to be liquidated and go out of business. They were given a say in the running of the club and, along with the kit colour change, also decided to rename the team ‘Manchester United’. The club had been relegated from the English top flight back in 1894 and did not return until 1906, but two years later won their first league title.


Two years after the club was formed, another team in the area sprung up as St Mark’s in 1880, later becoming Ardwick Association Football Club and finally Manchester City in 1894. It was that same year that the clubs first met, in the English Second Division, and Newton Heath, as they were still called, won 5–2.

They claimed the reverse fixture 4–1, but City were victorious 2–1 in the first game the following season to claim their maiden victory.

The two clubs remain bitter rivals to this day and after 190 competitive meetings, United lead the head-to-head 76–61, with 53 draws. City have closed that gap in recent times, though.

It was also a rivalry that became acrimonious when United manager Ernest Mangnall, a key figure in their early success, did the unthinkable and jumped ship to City in 1912.


Manchester United hold the record for most English league title wins, 20, though their last was in 2012/13 and they have fallen behind the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal in recent times. They also have 12 FA Cup wins and have been European champions three times, becoming the first English club to win in 1968.

They have also won the European Cup Winners’ Cup (1991) and Europa League (2017), as well as being crowned the Club World Cup winners in 2008.


Manchester United has had plenty of triumph in the past, but also moments of deep tragedy. The most infamous is the Munich Air Disaster, in which the aeroplane bringing them back from a European Cup clash in Yugoslavia crashed on its third attempt to depart Munich Airport.

The young team, affectionately known as the ‘Busby Babes’ after manager Matt Busby, was decimated, with eight players losing their lives. At the time the club was aiming for a third successive English league title, but it would take them a decade to recover as Busby rebuilt the team, culminating in that 1968 European Cup win.


Manchester United have had some of the greatest players the world has seen down the years. Ryan Giggs holds the record for most appearances, with 963 over 23 years, well ahead of Bobby Charlton (758) and Paul Scholes (718).

Wayne Rooney is the record-holder for most goals with 253, four ahead of Charlton. Their record transfer fee paid was £89.3 million for Frenchman Paul Pogba from Juventus, who United had let go to Juve for free four years earlier! The highest transfer fee they received was £80 million from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.

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