The world’s most famous football club had its modest beginning in 1878 when employees of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company opened a football club for its employees named “Newton Heath L&YR” which played on North Road in Newton Heath district of Manchester, in green and yellow halved jerseys.

Initially, they played mainly against other teams of workers and applied for the County Cup only in 1883-84 and then started playing in more and more such tournaments. In 1886, the club decided to expand from the status of a “junior” club to a senior one and signed a few players of national reputation such as Jack Powell, Roger Doughty, and Tom Burke. With greater stature of players, the club entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1886–87.

They were however rejected for the the Football League, and formed the Football Alliance with 11 other clubs in order to enjoy inter town football. Further, in 1892, there was a fallout with the L. & Y. Railway and they dropped the L & YR from the name adopting F.C. They switched grounds and their kit to red and white quartered jerseys.  However, the players were mainly employees of the company and only the sponsorship had been lost. The next season, 1892-93, they were finally elected to the Football League into the expanded First Division. They got relegated though in 1894 to the second division and were the first team ever to have done so. What makes it worse is that they lost the relegation playoff 2-0 to none other than Liverpool.

At the turn of the century, the financial situation worsened and dragged down their on-field play. In the 1901 season, they lost more games than they won debts mounted resulting in the club holding a four-day bazaar to raise money. The legend of the formation of the club begins here.

One of the products on sale at the bazaar was a St. Bernard dog, which escaped with a collection tin on one of the nights after the bazaar had closed. The dog was then discovered by John Henry Davies whose daughter loved the dog. Therefore, Mr. Davies, the leader of a group of businessmen, enquired about the origin of the tin which this led to is meeting with the then team captain Harry Stafford. The captain, was so impressive in the meeting that Mr. Davies, with his business group, came up with £2,000 to save the club from bankruptcy. Davies then became the President and in 28 April, 1902, the new owners renamed the club Manchester United F.C.

In hindsight, it is funny to think that the new owners also contemplated the names “Manchester Celtic” and “Manchester Central”. The team’s colours were then changed to the red and white which still prevails till today.


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