As a player Matt Busby played over 200 games for Manchester City and over 100 for Liverpool.
He was in his day either a right half or inside forward, in today’s parlance a midfielder.
Like most professional footballers Matt Busby was interrupted by the Second World War, in his case it helped him develop ideas as he joined the Physical Training Corps in the army.
Manchester United tried to sign Busby from Manchester City as a player and now the United board knowing Matt Busby had been offered a job at Liverpool, decided to offer him a job. Matt in discussions with United requested he controlled the training, selected the team and also had a major say in the players brought to the club without board interference.
At those times this was not a standard procedure, despite some misgivings about Matt Busby having too much power the directors offered him a five-year contract.
Matt took over in October 1945, used contacts in the army to bring ex West Bromwich Jimmy Murphy with him as chief coach.
Early success for the duo gave them runners-up spot to Liverpool in the 1946-47 season, also in 1947-48, 1948-49 and 1950-51, before winning the first division in 1951-52 and along the way adding the FA Cup, in 1948, a 4-2 victory against Blackpool, a truly remarkable run of success.
Matt Busby started to build a new team, rather than expensive signings he brought in young players like Jackie Blanchflower, Albert Scanlon, David Pegg, Bill Foulkes and most importantly the home grown colossus Duncan Edwards. Very few new players were bought, the exceptions being goalkeeper Harry Gregg, winger Johnny Berry and forward Tommy Taylor.
With the young group of players who eventually became the Busby Babes, they won the league in 1955-56 and in 1956-57 as well as being runners-up to Aston Villa in the 1957 FA Cup final.
The 1957-58 season promised so much for United, they were favourites for the Football League title, and the FA Cup, also playing this season in the European Cup.
Tragedy struck on the way home from a European tie against Red Star Belgrade on 6th February 1958, a now slightly run down ground I have visited personally in later years several times. Their plane crashed in snowy conditions in Munich, on that day twenty-one people died, seven of them players and club officials, Duncan Edwards sadly died from his injuries two weeks later. Matt Busby suffered multiple injuries and was thought to be on the verge of death, but he ultimately recovered from his injuries. The death of Duncan Edwards was kept from Matt Busby, he was eventually informed by a priest, he learned the rest from his wife Jean who helped him in these difficult times. Jimmy Murphy led the team while Matt recuperated, though Matt did attend United’s FA Cup final defeat against Bolton Wanderers.
Matt Busby had managed Scotland before Munich, giving Denis Law from Huddersfield Town his debut as a teenager; he was interested in signing Dennis for United.
A new side was built around the Munich survivors, Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes, but new players were also brought into the team, David Herd from Arsenal, Albert Quixall from Sheffield Wednesday and eventually he brought Denis Law from Torino, at the same time a young Northern Irish boy called George Best came into the club as a junior.
The new team beat Leicester City 3-1 in the 1963 Cup Final, followed that by being league champions in both 1964-65 and 1966-67, but a last match defeat in the 1967-68 season saw their local rivals Manchester City win the title.
The crowning glory for Matt Busby was winning the European Cup in May 1968.
Matt Busby retired at the end of the following season. After initially surviving a stroke, Sir Matt Busby CBE died of cancer in January 1994, he was aged 84. Matt Busby won the first division title five times, the FA Cup twice, the Charity Shield five times and the European Cup once. These figures might not add up to those produced by Alex Ferguson, but for me the transition from an ordinary first division side into the institution United are today was well and truly engineered by Matt Busby. Also to be remembered in the equation is that Alex Ferguson for probably twenty years had the monopoly in terms of finance in the English Premier League, until Roman Abramovich put his money into Chelsea and Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan invested his vast wealth in Manchester City.
Sir Matt Busby CBE was one of a kind, a modest man who was well liked and respected and will always be remembered with affection by the red half of Manchester and respected by the blue half and admired by followers of football in every corner of these islands.