With Sir Matt Busby still in hospital, recovering from the tragedy in Munich, Jimmy Murphy, the man Busby made his assistant manager when being appointed himself, took the reins. It had been his job to scout and train the team which was known as the Busby Babes, known for his dedication to the job, but after the Munich Air Disaster, he became the caretaker manager.
Murphy himself had escaped the tragedy because he was managing Wales in a World Cup qualifying match. They reached the World Cup and were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Brazil, the eventual winners, thanks to a goal scored by Pele, in the only World Cup Wales have ever played in.
When Sir Matt returned, Murphy was offered to the jobs of manager of Brazil, Juventus and Arsenal, but he turned them all down to remain as United’s assistant and work with the young players. He retired in his early 60’s and sadly died aged 79. The following season, the club created the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award, which would recognise the best young player at the club.
So, who’s won it, and where are they now?
1989–90: Lee Martin
Went on to play at total of 108 games for United and scored two goals, one of which being the winner in the 1990 FA Cup replay against Crystal Palace.
Was sold to Celtic when he was 26-years-old, four years after being named young player of the year, where he broke his leg.
He didn’t manage any more than 25 games for any other club he signed for, which included Bristol Rovers and Bangor City.
He retired aged 40 after completing his second season for Welsh Premier League side, NEWI Cefn Druids.
1990–91: Ryan Giggs
Originally at City’s youth academy, Sir Alex Ferguson visited Giggs’ home personally to ask him to join Manchester United on his 14th birthday.
Giggs got his first games during the 90-91 season, but it was the following year when he became a regular, playing in 51 games. Since then, he has never played less than 37 games in a season for United and between the seasons 1991-2009, has averaged 45 games a season, at most, playing 59 games in the 02-03 season.
Holds the Manchester United record for appearances, 818 (and counting), won 11 league titles, 2 European Cups, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups etc. Named the PFA Young Player of the Year in 92 and 93, as well as the PFA Player of the Year in 2009. 64 International caps.
1991–92: Ryan Giggs
1992–93: Paul Scholes
Born in Salford, he joined United at 14-years-old, and was deemed too small and too weak (with his asthma) to make it at the club by some. But he worked hard and the staff had belief in him.
He was initially used up front, rather than the central midfield role we now see him in, and played 17 games in his first season for us in 94-95, scoring 5 goals.
With Mark Hughes sold to Chelsea and Eric Cantona suspended, Scholes played up front with Andy Cole for parts of the following season, scoring 10 goals in 26 league appearances, 14 goals in 31 games in total.
Only three players have played more games for Manchester United (Giggs, Charlton and Foulkes). He’s won 9 league titles, 2 European Cups, 3 FA Cups, 1 League Cup etc. and entered the English Football Hall of Fame in 2008. 66 International caps.
1993–94: Phil Neville
Only 30 players have played more games for Manchester United, playing a total of 386 games. Won 6 league titles, 1 European Cup and 3 FA Cups. He made is debut in the 94-95 season but it was the following season when he got his chance and made his name for himself, along with the other “Fergie Fledglings”. He played in 34 games for United that season, 24 of which in the league, aged just 18.
Known for his versatility, Phil was probably better at left back but earned praise from United fans after filling for Roy Keane in the centre of midfield to help bring an end to Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run (and kicking the shit out of Reyes).
After eleven season in the first team squad he was sold to Everton, where he was named captain in January 2007. 59 International caps.
1994–95: Terry Cooke
Made just eight first team appearances for United but on his debut, assisted a Ryan Giggs goal against Bolton. He scored against York in the League Cup a few weeks later.
After several loan periods with the likes of Sunderland, Birmingham and City, he eventually signed for City for £1million in 1999. With City, he gained promotion from the Second Division (League 1) before spending even more time out on loan.
He joined Grimsby after his City contract expired in 2002, before signing for Sheffield Wednesday. In 2005 he moved to the States, signing for Colorado Rapids. In 2008 he captained his side to a 4-0 over LA Galaxy, which contained his former team-mate and friend, David Beckham.
Cooke was then released by Rapids and returned to England to train with Nottingham Forest to keep up his fitness.
He signed for North Queensland Fury FC on Wednesday and is expected to play at the weekend.
1995–96: Ronnie Wallwork
Born in Newton Heath, Wallwork joined the academy as a teenager, playing in a total of 28 games for the first team. His most hopeful season came in 2000-2001 where he featured 12 times in the league and picked up a winners’ medal.
After several loan spells out to clubs like Stockport and Carlisle, his contract was not renewed in 2002 leading him to sign for West Brom, something Sir Alex Ferguson called ‘the best Bosman deal of the summer’.
He spent six years with WBA but was again loaned out, this time to Bradford, Barnsley and Huddersfield, although was named WBA’s player of the year in 04-05. He then signed for Sheffield Wednesday on a free but played just seven games before he was released. He trained with Carlisle last summer but wasn’t offered a permanent contract.
1996–97: John Curtis
He spent just three years in the United first team squad, leaving for Blackburn in 2000 after making 13 league appearances for United.
He went on to gain promotion to the Premiership with them as well as lift the League Cup.
However, the following season was spoilt with injuries and he never regained his regular first team spot. He was released by Blackburn in 2003 and signed for Leicester, who had just been promoted to the Premiership. He played just 17 games for them before being released and Portsmouth signed him.
He failed to hold down a first team spot under Harry Redknapp so joined QPR on a free in 2007.
After spells with Worchester City and Wrexham, he signed a one year deal with Northampton Town this summer where he has played 12 games.
1997–98: Wes Brown
Born in Longsight, Wes joined the academy as a kid, aged 12. He made his debut in 97-98 season but really started playing the following year, at both right back and centre back. After winning the Treble with United, Wes injured himself in the summer before the following season and didn’t play a single game during 99-00.
Injuries have blighted his career, but he has been first choice for his position during a number of seasons, although 07-08 was arguably his best season, where he missed just two league games and helped United winning the Double – even assisting Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in the European Cup final.
Currently lies 43rd in the United appearances table after spending 13 years in the first team squad.
He has 5 league winners medals (which would be higher if not for the chunks of his career he has missed through injury), 2 European Cups, 2 FA Cups and 1 League Cup. 21 International caps.
1998–99: Wes Brown
1999–2000: Bojan Djordjic
Joined United from Swedish club IF Brommapojkarna when he was 17-years-old.
He was loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday, Red Star Belgrade and AGF in his time at United, only making two appearances for the first team.
He signed for Rangers, playing just one season, before moving to Plymouth Argyle (“Green Army!”). His bad attitude saw him transfer listed before his contract was terminated by mutual consent in 2007.
He has now returned to Sweden to play for AIK, ‘the club in his heart’.
2000–01: Alan Tate
Captained the Reserves but failed to make a single appearance for the first team in his four years as a professional at the club. He was first loaned out to Swansea in 2002 who he went on to sign a permanent deal with in 2004. He has gone on to make 175 appearances for them and earned a name for himself in celebrating the LDV Vans trophy final in 2006, holding up a Welsh flag with “Fuck off Cardiff” written across the front.
2001–02: Paul Tierney
Never playing in the league for United, he made his debut in the League Cup against West Brom in 2003.
He was loaned out to Crewe Alexandra, Bradford and Colchester, before signing for Livingston in 2005 after being released by United.
He made little impact on the Scottish club, leaving them for Blackpool after just a season. He spent two years there, six months of which on loan to Stockport, before signing for Altrincham in 2008.
2002–03: Ben Collett
A week after winning the FA Youth Cup with United, scoring in the final, he was selected to play for the Reserves against Middlesbrough. His leg was broken in two places following a challenge by Gary Smith which forced him in to retirement aged 19-years-old.
Between 2006 and 2007 he played for a team from New Zealand and a second division Dutch side although his injury prevented him from playing again after this.
He was paid an initial sum of £4.3 million in compensation after Sir Alex Ferguson, Gary Neville and Brian McClair all testified he would have had every chance of becoming a United regular and a household name.
2003–04: Jonathan Spector
Signed from American club, Chicago Fire Premier, in 2003, he played in six games with United before being sold to West Ham for £500,000. After being called upon to make up numbers during a defensive injury crisis in 2005, we loaned him out to Charlton where he featured in 24 games.
He has gone on to play 90 Premiership matches and a total of 100 games in England. 23 International caps.
2004–05: Giuseppe Rossi
The one that got away. Signed from Parma in 2004 and went on to score 18 goals in 25 games for the Reserves. In his second season he scored 26 goals in 26 games for the Reserves.
He played a total 14 first team games for United, scoring 4 goals.
After a loan period at Newcastle where he was hardly played, then a more successful return to Parma, scoring 9 goals in 19 games, Rossi was sold to Villarreal for £6.6million, with talk of a buy-back clause. In his first season he scored 11 goals in 27 games, in his second season 12 goals in 30 games. 14 International caps
2005–06: Darron Gibson
He has had two loan periods away from the club, first at Royal Antwerp when he was 19, then Wolves the following season.
He has played in a total of 17 games for United so far, including starting including Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat in the Champions League. He has scored three goals for United, most notably his brilliant goal against Hull on the last day of last season. He has a League Cup and FIFA World Club Cup medal. 5 International caps.
2006–07: Craig Cathcart
After signing for United in 2006 as a 17-year-old, he has yet to make an appearance for the first team. He was an unused sub in our 7-1 mauling of Roma in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2007 but as his debut was on the cards, he suffered an injury which kept him out for the rest of the season.
After loan spells with Royal Antwerp and Plymouth Argyle, he is currently at Watford with fellow United youngster Tom Cleverley, and was praised earlier in the month by the manager following their 2-0 win over Preston NE.
2007–08: Danny Welbeck
Born in Longsight, Welbeck joined United when he was 15-years-old. After impressive performances in the Reserves, he was taken to Saudi Arabia in January 2008 where he made his debut from the bench, replacing Anderson, and missed a penalty.
The following season he had a good run in the League Cup for United, which we later went on to win. His league debut came as a substitute against Stoke where he scored a blinding goal in front of the Stretford End during a 5-0 win. After the game he said every lad growing up in Manchester dreams of doing what he just did.
He has played a total of 18 games for United, scoring 5 goals.
2008–09: Federico Macheda
Shortly after his 16th birthday, Kiko left local club Lazio to sign for United. He scored on his debut for the under 18’s before being promoted to the Reserves half way through the season.
Towards the end of last season he went on a scoring run of 8 goals in 8 games, meaning when Rooney and Berbatov were unavailable for United’s league game against Aston Villa, he was put on the bench. On the morning of that game, RoM went with the headline “Today’s the day for Macheda?“, never in my wildest dreams predicting what was about to happen.
We all know what happened well, but indulge me! He came on for Nani with half an hour to play when United were 2-1 down, before Ronaldo equalised for us with ten minutes to play. Then in injury time he called for the ball outside the box, turned on it expertly, and curled it in the corner. This moment is remember as most fans’ moment of the season.
The following week we were drawing away from home against Sunderland. He came on with 15 minutes to play and a minute later had the ball in the back of the net.
These two goals earned United an extra four points, United went on to win the league by four points with an inferior goal difference to Liverpool. Of course football is a team game, but I wouldn’t begrudge him for claiming he won United the league last season!
He has played in a total of 9 games for the first team, scoring 2 goals.