Book review: Manchester United’s First Championship
When Ernest Mangnall’s Manchester United secured the club’s début First Division championship in 1907-8 it began a sequence of 18 record-equalling titles over the next century. But far from the mega-corporation that United has become today, the club was a more modest affair having been close to bankruptcy just five years previously.
Released by DB Publishing, Mark Metcalf’s match-by-match account of the dramatic 1907-8 season offers a unique insight into the club’s rising fortunes at the turn of the century. From the rebirth of Manchester United in 1902 after Newton Heath’s near demise, to glory in April 1908, Metcalf’s is a forensic account of an historic season.
“Like all great clubs it all had to start with a first success,” writes Metcalf.
“In the case of Manchester United it came just over 100 years ago when only a few years after almost going bust they captured the First Division title at the end of the 1907-8 season with a then record number of points.”
Including pen profiles of the players, original images, match reports and vital statistics, Manchester United’s First Championship offers a fascinating insight into the very different world of professional football in the early 1900s.
Based at Bank Street Clayton – near to the City of Manchester Stadium today – United attracted crowds that rarely broke 20,000, boasted a star outside-right, Billy Meredith, who cost £500 from neighbours City, and had languised in the Second Division just two years earlier.
Indeed, 1907 proved a pivotal moment in the development of United with four players, including Meredith, joining from City that season. The FA had exposed City’s flagrant breach of maximum wage regulations that had enabled the club to gain promotion in 1903. City over spending on wages – some things never change!
By April 1908 United had gained 52 points, winning the first division by nine and taking the Charity Shield and Manchester Cup with it.
But Metcalf’s narrative offers more than a description of events – it takes the modern fan on a journey through a remarkable season. One that it many ways defines United today.