In the early 1930s, the Reds were in financial meltdown and in much need of rescuing. Step forward local businessman James Gibson, who steered the club away from bankruptcy and laid the foundation for United to become the greatest club in the world. No wonder Alan Embling (above) is proud to have called him "uncle"...
My first recollection of United as a little boy was going for lunch at my uncle's house and seeing the FA Cup in one of the bedrooms.
It was 1948 and United had just beaten Blackpool 4-2 in the final at Wembley. Unfortunately James had had a stroke and couldn’t make the trip, so the squad stopped by on the way home to present him with the cup as a thank you for all his hard work. It demonstrated the special bond he shared with the players. My uncle was a very generous, kind-hearted man. Just before he took over the club in 1931, he wrote a cheque for £2,000 to cover the players’ unpaid wages. He also gave them enough money to buy the biggest Christmas turkey they could find!
He was also good to the fans. At the time, supporters were leaving United in their droves but James did his best to get them back. He negotiated with the railway company to get a platform outside Old Trafford so fans didn’t have to walk for miles to get to a game. He also poured £30,000 of his own money into the club to save it from bankruptcy and financed the rebuilding of Old Trafford after the Luftwaffe bombed it during World War II. He actually cried when he was told what had happened to the stadium.
It would have been an dream for James to see how successful United have become. He laid the foundations. Without it, United wouldn’t be where they are now in terms of success or popularity. It’s difficult to comprehend just how proud we are. He was a lovely man who was very forward thinking and we miss him dearly.