Erik ten Hag.

How United bosses fared in their first games

Saturday 18 June 2022 14:00

Erik ten Hag will have his first competitive match in charge of Manchester United when Brighton & Hove Albion visit Old Trafford on Sunday 7 August.

The new boss will lead his team out at the Theatre of Dreams for the first time in the Premier League, in front of the Sky Sports cameras and a full house, as the Reds aim to get the 2022/23 campaign off to a good start.

So how did our previous permanent managers fare in their opening league fixture at the helm?

Let's run through the post-War list...

Sir Matt Busby is one of the most legendary managers in the game.

Sir Matt Busby - Grimsby (H) 2-1, 1946

The great man agreed to join the Reds in February 1945 but did not take over until October due to his army duties. There was still a wait for Division One action but the 1946/47 campaign, the first since the Second World War, finally brought to an end over seven years without regular top-flight competition. United were still playing at Maine Road, after Old Trafford had been bombed, and recorded a 2-1 victory over Grimsby Town. Busby's first programme column opened with a cheery greeting of: 'To all United fans, I say how do you do?' Charlie Mitten and Jack Rowley scored the goals and United went on to finish runners-up to Liverpool.

Wilf McGuinness - Crystal Palace (A) 2-2, 1969

Replacing Sir Matt a year after he won the European Cup was always going to be a tough task and Busby would return for a second stint in charge. Wilf, a former Busby Babe, got the job, at the age of 31, and we opened the season with a trip to Selhurst Park. The Glaziers, rather than the Eagles in those days, went ahead through Mel Blyth, but Bobby Charlton equalised. Gerry Queen restored the Londoners' lead before the break but a point was secured, courtesy of a Willie Morgan strike.

Frank O'Farrell - Derby (A) 2-2, 1971

The Irishman replaced Busby on a five-year contract in the close season and oversaw matters for the Division One opener with Derby County in the August. Again, it ended in a 2-2 draw, although we led convincingly inside 25 minutes, thanks to Denis Law and Alan Gowling. However, Kevin Hector and Frank Wignall hauled the Rams level to cheer the home fans at the Baseball Ground, with an hour still left to play, and both sides had to settle for a point. Palace, heavily involved in this feature, brought down the curtain on O'Farrell's reign with a 5-0 win in the capital.

Tommy Docherty - Leeds (H) 1-1, 1972

The bubbly Scot breezed in to Old Trafford and was installed as boss in time for the big home clash with Leeds United, two days before Christmas in 1972. It finished in another draw, 1-1, with Ted MacDougall netting for the Reds and Allan Clarke on the mark for the Yorkshiremen. Brilliant approach play by Ian Storey-Moore and Willie Morgan led to MacDougall sweeping home but Clarke did superbly to convert a Paul Madeley pass in the final seconds. 'The Doc' had managed Scotland and had a wealth of experience and the Reds did stave off relegation, although only until the following campaign.

Tommy Docherty's first game in charge of the Reds came against Leeds United.

Dave Sexton - Birmingham (A) 4-1, 1977

Sexton's Soldiers marched to a convincing 4-1 victory at Birmingham City, with Lou Macari scoring a hat-trick and Sammy McIlroy running the midfield in the Midlands. Gordon Hill also got on the scoresheet with a fabulous volley past Jimmy Montgomery as the Reds enjoyed a great start to life after Docherty, whose final game in charge was the FA Cup final triumph over Liverpool at Wembley. Terry Hibbitt scored Blues' goal.

Ron Atkinson - Coventry (A) 1-2, 1981

Big Ron's beginning to life as United boss was far from ideal as Coventry City inflicted a 2-1 defeat at Highfield Road. Hopes were high that Atkinson could end the long wait for a league title and Macari was again among the goals, with a header, but the Sky Blues took the points. Steve Whitton opened the scoring in the 11th minute but future Red Peter Bodak's second-half effort from close range, following a goalmouth scramble, proved to be the winner.

35 years since Sir Alex's first United game


It's the anniversary of the great man's maiden match in charge of the Reds, which ended in defeat at Oxford.

Sir Alex Ferguson - Oxford (A) 0-2, 1986

The Scot was appointed as Atkinson's successor but there was no sign of the incredible success that was to follow in his opening game at Oxford United's Manor Ground. John Aldridge (penalty) and Neil Slatter notched the goals for the home side in a game to forget for the Reds as the rebuilding task on the new man's hands became obvious. Frank Stapleton did hit the bar but United were unable to even provide a goal for the boss in the dugout.

David Moyes - Swansea (A) 4-1, 2013

Another Scotsman was charged with replacing the irreplaceable in Sir Alex and already had a trophy to his name, the Community Shield after a win over Wigan Athletic, when overseeing his first league game. It went well in Wales with the champions racking up a 4-1 triumph over Swansea City. Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck both scored twice, to overshadow the speculation surrounding the future of Wayne Rooney. Wilfried Bony replied for the hosts and the season certainly did not go to plan afterwards for United.

Louis van Gaal - Swansea (H) 1-2, 2014

Our first Dutch boss had enjoyed an excellent pre-season but the expected positive start fell flat at Old Trafford. This time, Swansea emerged victorious to spring an opening-day shock. Ki Sung-yueng's goal was cancelled out by Rooney, who acrobatically found the back of the net, only for Gylfi Sigurdsson to restore the Welsh side's advantage. It was a first home defeat in a league opener for the club since 1972.

Highlights: Cardiff 1 United 5 Video

Highlights: Cardiff 1 United 5

Fancy watching all of the goals from our impressive win at Cardiff City again? Of course you do...

Jose Mourinho - Bournemouth (A) 3-1, 2016

The Portuguese manager had the Community Shield in the bag, after defeating Leicester City at Wembley, and followed up that positive opening with a convincing 3-1 success on the south coast against Bournemouth. Juan Mata capitalised on a defensive mix-up to open the scoring and Rooney doubled the lead just before the hour mark. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was already proving his worth and he drilled in number three and a consolation for Adam Smith failed to take the gloss off a memorable day in the sunshine.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - Cardiff (A) 5-1, 2019

Our Treble hero did take over temporarily at first but we'll counting this as his first game in charge because he was later made permanent manager. And what a start it was! The first time we'd scored five goals in a Premier League match since Sir Alex's final fixture in charge had the away end in raptures, with Jesse Lingard netting twice. Marcus Rashford's third-minute free-kick, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial had given us a 3-1 lead, Victor Camarasa scored for Cardiff City, before Lingard converted a penalty and added a late fifth. The opening game of his permanent reign was a 2-1 win over Watford in March 2019.