United Review book

On sale now: The United Review book

Friday 13 November 2020 08:00

‘There is no programme like it in the football world.’

So wrote United Review editor Sidney Wicks in October 1932, somewhat blowing his own trumpet but clearly immensely proud of the new publication on sale for match days at Old Trafford.

A new official book, entitled United Review – An Illustrated History of Manchester United’s Matchday Programme, does much to back up our former editor’s 88-year-old boast.

The 323-page tome looks at well over a century of content from the club’s matchday programme: starting as a simple team sheet in our days as Newton Heath and becoming the in-depth magazine (normally) available at home matches and also online.

For generations of supporters, the programme was the only way to hear directly from the chairman and manager, an opportunity to get to know the players, an insight into the opposition and the primary source of ticket information. It was also a must-have reference for fixtures and stats, a thoroughly good read and a treasured souvenir.

Broken up into 13 chapters telling the story of the club through the pages of its programme, the book charts the Reds’ glorious triumphs and painful lows, celebrates famous players and managers, and sadly reflects on the tragedy of the Munich Air Disaster.

From front covers to columns, cartoons to interviews, the best content from over 3,000 issues is included, providing fascinating insight into the story of the world’s most famous football club. Among the most interesting content in the book is the chapter revisiting the ‘manager’s notes’ from down the decades.

Scott Duncan, manager from 1932 to 1937, was first to address fans directly in the programme when he offered a Christmas greeting. But it was Sir Matt Busby who first spoke directly to fans through a column in August 1946, kicking off with the wonderful line: ‘To all United fans I say, “How do you do?”’

That was the first of almost 2,000 programme notes produced over the decades, with Sir Alex Ferguson taking them more seriously than anyone in his time as boss.

In his own debut column he wrote: ‘A man is very fortunate if he gets the opportunity to manage Manchester United in his lifetime and I can assure you that I have no intention of wasting my opportunity here. I am going to love every minute of it.’

What followed proved to be a truly glorious era, and our many successes in England, Europe and the rest of the world are recalled through interviews with United greats like David Beckham, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.

There are match reports from our greatest games too, plus insight into the visits to Old Trafford of football’s greatest ever exponents, including Messi, Maradona, Eusebio and van Basten, among others.

Among the most interesting content in the book is the chapter revisiting the ‘manager’s notes’ from down the decades.

Other chapters look at regular columnists, like David Meek, a contributor to United Review for over 55 years, plus Tom Jackson and Alf Clarke, who tragically were among the eight journalists killed in Munich in February 1958.

The crash, the darkest moment in our history, is also dedicated a chapter – looking at how the programme reacted at the time and how it paid its respects ever since to the Busby Babes and those who perished on that fateful day in Germany.

The illustrated history provides a nostalgia trip for supporters of a certain age, as well as a history lesson for younger fans, and is on sale here.