Within living memory, Manchester United have won just about every major honour available - yet for many supporters of a certain vintage their favourite season of all was spent not battling for top honours but in the second flight of English football. Following a spectacular decline following the break-up of the 1968 European Cup winners, United were relegated in April 1974 and the following season was supposed to be a humiliation for the club. Instead, the reds responded by re-inventing themselves for a new era and attracting a whole new generation of supporters.
As Wayne Barton discovers, the modern day Manchester United was born during their sojourn in the second tier. From training pitch to boardroom and under the guidance of wise-cracking manager Tommy Docherty, the club moved on from a state of post-war stasis and shaped itself for the next quarter century. Without the pressure to maintain a place in the top fl ight, The Doc helped invigorate a club still struggling to come to terms with the modern era.
With contributions from manager Tommy Docherty, captain Martin Buchan and first team regulars Brian Greenhoff, Sammy McIlroy, Lou Macari and Arnie Sidebottom - the author discovers that
relegation to the Second Division was not quite the financial or footballing nightmare it could have been. Alongside United in the second tier that season were future European champions Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa.
Meanwhile United fi nished well ahead of all of them, playing in a refreshing style before record crowds - by April 1975 'The Doc' had revived an ailing patient and set it's pulse racing again and attracted a whole new generation of supporters along the way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
WAYNE BARTON has ghostwritten numerous Manchester United autobiographies and his 2014 book ‘Fergie’s Fledglings' was described as ‘essential’ by the Independent. Wayne has been the football columnist for international sports broadcaster Setanta Sports and has interviewed many illustrious names from United’s history.
The bare facts of TOMMY DOCHERTY'S reign do scant justice to his immense contribution to the story of Manchester United. He arrived at a club still struggling to come to terms with the ghosts of United's past and left it in an upbeat mood ready to embrace the realities of the modern game.
The Doc himself admits he expected to get the sack following relegation in April 1974 but Sir Matt Busby made one of his most important decisions in retaining the wise-cracking Scot. Within a year the transformation of the club was almost complete, United emphatically bouncing back to the Second Division before record crowds playing Busby style football. A switch to 4-2-4 recalled the great teams of '48 and '58 while the growing army of supporters began a phenomenon that still has echoes in the club's worldwide support today.