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"You have fulfilled my greatest ambition."

- United chairman and benefactor James Gibson, to Matt Busby after the Reds won the FA Cup in 1948.

19/01/2012 10:27, Report by Paul Davies
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The man who saved United

all debts. The club was saved.

Last month, a special tribute marked Gibson’s first dealings with United. The short ceremony, by the plaque in his memory on Sir Matt Busby Way, was attended by club officials, supporters and members of the Embling family (Gibson’s relatives).

The location was fitting, in view of the stadium’s railway station, another project funded by Gibson and made possible after he negotiated with the railways.

That was only one of the legacies of his chairmanship, from 1932-1951. He provided funds for Crickmer and Louis Rocca to form the club’s first youth system (Manchester United Junior Athletic Club), saw the Reds through the Great Depression and WWII, appointed Matt Busby as manager in 1945 and funded the rebuilding of Old Trafford after a German air raid destroyed the main stand.

When Sir Matt’s first great side landed the FA Cup in 1948, the chairman – too ill to attend the Wembley showpiece after suffering a stroke – welcomed home his victorious side with the words: “You have fulfilled my greatest ambition.”

Sadly, Gibson lost his life in 1951, a few months before Busby’s men won a first league title in 41 years. His demise ended a reign light on trophies but one which had laid the foundations for great success. For that, all Reds fans should be grateful even now.

More: Club history: decade by decade

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