26 Apr 2014

United they stand – or do they?

As Manchester United prepare to play their first game under new manager Ryan Giggs, Brian Glanville reflects on life at Old Trafford under Busby and Ferguson.

As Manchester United prepare to play their first game under new manager Ryan Giggs, Brian Glanville reflects on life at Old Trafford under Busby and Ferguson (Getty)

Emerging from the chaos left by the abrupt dismissal of David Moyes as manager of Manchester United, Ryan Giggs was unforthcoming in his first press conference as caretaker.

It might however cynically and unfairly be remarked that in the matters of blocking information, Giggs has form.

Failing in the high court to maintain an injunction preventing revelations of his highly complicated private life and liaisons. But then Sir Alex Ferguson, whose private life is a permanently closed book, was barely a one for press conferences.

‘I’ve never heard of you’

When it came to the press conferences he did deign to give week by week within the club itself, woe betide any journalist who with his questions stepped out of line, while junior reporters could be painfully put down. “I’ve never heard of you and I’ve never heard of your paper.”

During these sensational developments at Old Trafford, the voice of Wilf McGuinness could be heard, evoking those ancient words of Karl Marx, history repeats itself.

The first time of tragedy, the second as farce. Poor McGuinness, a tough little left half among the so called Busby Babes, was suddenly and unexpectedly shoved into the driver’s seat when Matt Busby, true architect of United’s triumphs, decided to retire.

However splendidly Ferguson kept United at the crest of English and even European football it was Busby, once a Manchester City, Liverpool and Scotland wing half, who took United over at the end of the war when its Old Trafford home had been destroyed by German bombs, a tree growing out of the goalmouths.

Busby Babes

Busby’s so called Babes had to play their home games for years on the Maine Road, ground of their traditional rivals, Manchester City.

Busby it was who defied the insularity of the Football League to take them defiantly into the European Cup. But once poor McGuinness was appointed, Busby sat in his old office opposite him. McGuiness lost his hair.

Ferguson didn’t do that to Moyes, though he must have been a disconcerting figure looking on at matches from the stand.

Why was he so keen to appoint Moyes who, though he had done a splendid solid job at Everton, had specialised in survival against the odds, winning no major honours? Could it consciously or not have been that Ferguson didn’t want to see a successor to rival or outshine him? Mourniho?

Giggs, Scholes and company have been dropped in at the deep end. The players will unquestionably welcome them as they had lost faith in Moyes.


The excuse that Ferguson had left with a disintegrating team seems nonsensical, given the 11 point advantage with which Ferguson had triumphed in his last Premiership.

A year earlier, after all, City had scraped home in injury time in the very last game against a depleted QPR, taking the title by a whisker.

The hope at United is presumably that Giggs and his new fellow coaches will with their mere fresh presence spark some kind of revival. Meanwhile, what questions could Giggs legitimately be expected to answer? He must merely hold the fort.