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The History of Manchester United - Part I
by Andrew Embling

PART 1 - Newton Heath LYR

MANCHESTER UNITED - a name associated with flair and passion - but how did it all begin, and how has the club developed over the past 123 years. From the humble beginning - to the glory days of Alex Ferguson's men. This series details the highs and lows of our club - the teams, the men behind the scenes, and the events from adversity to triumph that have made United the world's greatest football club.

It was a group of carriage and wagon workers from the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway who began it all. In 1878, on the northeast side of the city of Manchester, in a suburb where rugby was the main focus on sport, an association football team by the name of Newton Heath (LYR) was born. Playing their games on a ground in North Road, the team played in gold and green halved shirts. It was an amateur side - professional football not being legalised until 1885- and the team was run by the Dining Room Committee of the Carriage and Wagon works.

Sam Black was the first star of the Newton Heath team. A full back, he was selected to play for the Manchester and District team against their Liverpudlian counterparts in March 1884. In the following year Newton Heath made their first appearance in the Lancashire Association Cup, beating Haydock Temperance 4 - 0, and in 1885 were runners-up in the final to Hurst. They became a renowned cup team of the time. Reaching the final seven times in the next 8 years, winning on 5 occasions. The team also won the Manchester Cup in 1888.

With the onset of professionalism in 1885 the Football League was instituted in 1888. Newton Heath took full advantage of the new laws and introduced a number of new faces to the team, many of them Welshmen, who also found jobs in the wagon works. Newton Heath joined the Football Alliance in 1889 - the basis of the second division. 

There was an increasingly large turn out to see Newton Heath's home games during this time, with attendances reaching more than 2,000. A stand was erected in 1891 which held 1,000 fans, but still improvements were required and money needed.

The club finished as runners-up in the 1891-2 season and with the expansion of the football league, Newton Heath was elected to the League for the following season. That season they finished bottom of Division One, but beat Small Heath in a 'test match' to remain in the top division, with Small Heath continuing in Division 2. That season, though, Newton Heath did win the Manchester Cup against Bolton. 

It was that first season in the first division that was witness to one of the strangest moments in the club's history in it's early years. During a training session for the following weeks' match against the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers the players began hammer throwing. One of the players, Stewart, sent the hammer loose, not knowing that his centre forward, Donaldson, was in the way. The hammer hit Donaldson and made him 'fall down insensible'. Wolves were hit hard too - Newton Heath winning 10-1.

Having struggled in their first season in Division One, Newton Heath continued in the same vain the following season, and was again forced to take part in a test match to stay up. They played Liverpool and lost, the Merseysiders taking their place in Division One. A year later, having finished third in Division 2, they failed to return to the top flight after losing the vital test match against Stoke.

Despite being unable to return to the top flight things were not all that bad for Newton Heath, and the team won the Lancashire Cup for the first time in 1898, beating Blackburn 2-1. 

Manchester City, with the skills of Billy Meredith - one day to join United - were the major force in Manchester. Things were looking bad for Newton Heath of the field, and in early 1902 they were 2,270 in debt. The creditors moved in and the first major financial crisis hit the club. It proved to be the end of Newton Heath, and the birth of Manchester United.


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