Jimmy Murphy arrived at Old Trafford in 1946 he was greeted by the
ruins of what had once been one of the wonders of pre-war Manchester.
The stadium was a bombed-out wreck while the players trained on
a patch of dangerous gravel not fit for a modern day car park and
the club reeled from the embarassment of playing their ‘home’ games
at Maine Road.
By the time Murphy packed his bags and left Old Trafford for the
last time, Manchester United were world-famous: they had been conquered
by and then conquered Europe, raised the profile of English league
football to a degree unimaginable before the war and touched the
hearts of millions in the process. Alongside Matt Busby, the Welshman
with an Irish name had made an English club the most famous football
name in the world.
Matt Busby called Jimmy Murphy ‘my first signing and my most important’.
Where Matt was the diplomatic frontman and manager, Jimmy was the
firebrand who instilled the passion in Manchester United, bringing
his celtic passion to a club eager to escape the ruins of post-war
Manchester. Jimmy instilled in the club a willingness to practice
longer than the rest, a desire for perfection. When Murphy’s youth
team won a particular game 6-1 the players would only hear complaints
about the goal conceeded. If Bobby Charlton or Duncan Edwards gave
the ball away in a dangerous position, they’d be out on the training
ground all next day learning what to do to avoid calamity next time.
Of course Murphy was a hard task master but it was only through
hard work that he produced a stream of talented teenagers in the
early 1950s at a time when most clubs wouldn’t look to sign a player
until he was in his early twenties. Thus Edwards, Charlton, Viollet,
Byrne, Colman and the rest replaced United’s great 1952 Championship
winning team and embarked on a journey which ended in well-documented
Fortunately Jimmy missed the Munich air-crash and only found out
about the disaster when a tearful secretary broke the news that
the boys he had picked and trained as teenagers had perished in
such terrible circumstances. As if to add to his woe, Matt was not
expected to live much longer and Jimmy was thrown in at the deep-end
- re-arranging fixtures, attempting to sign players, checking on
the youngsters and generally keeping the club’s head above water.
It’s not an understatement to say that without him United could
well have gone under during those desperate days.
That Jimmy guided the team to the FA Cup Final that fateful year
was a remarkable achievement. That he followed that up by helping
a recovered Matt Busby guide United to 2nd place in 1958/9 was even
more amazing but perhaps most remarkable of all Jimmy guided Wales
to the quarter-finals of the World Cup only losing out to a solitary
Pele goal in Sweden.
It is true to say that United would not be the club they are today
without Jimmy Murphy; his passion and determination made Busby’s
vision a reality. Nevertheless his is a tale untold - the true story
of his vital role in the birth of Manchester United is long overdue
for examination and is vital to understanding the romance surrounding
Order at Amazon