'The club set up in protest to Malcolm Glazer's
takeover of Manchester United' is a statement often used to
describe FC United. But while there is no doubt that FC would
not have happened without the American invasion, it was the
catalyst, the final straw, but not the sole reason.
material theft of a Manchester institution, forcibly taken
from the people of Manchester, was the tip of a pyramid
of destruction, with changing kick off times for the benefit
of television, soulless all-seater stadia full of 'new'
supporters intent to sit back and watch rather than partake
in the occasion, heavy handed stewarding and ridiculously
priced tickets propping it all up.
By May 2005 some supporters had had enough. The
failure to prevent Glazer and repeat the successful repulsion
of Rupert Murdoch in 1998 resurrected a 'last resort' idea from
that previous campaign and the FC United wheels were put in
motion. A group of individuals determined to continue the fight
formed a steering committee and FC United of Manchester was
Critics of the idea argued that if supporters
were disgruntled with the Premiership then why didn't they go
and support other local cash-strapped clubs instead of setting
up their own? But that wouldn't have been theirs would it? It
wouldn't have been United and it wouldn't have been right to
takeover another club after they had just been taken over themselves.
Nor could they drift off in various directions and be lost to
each other and maybe football forever. They wanted to maintain
the momentum of the protest, to stick together, to sing United
songs, to reminisce and bring back the good bits of the good
old days. They wanted Our Club, Our Rules and they got just
that, a member owned democratic, not-for-profit organisation
created by Manchester United fans. A club accessible to all
of the Greater Manchester community, dedicated to encouraging
participation of youth whether it be playing or supporting and
to providing affordable football for all.
The Inaugural Season
The steering group
did an amazing job in a short space of time including
the appointment of the club's first manager Karl Marginson.
Only a fortnight old, the club played its first game at
Leigh on July 16, 2005 in front of an official crowd of
2,552. It ended with an exuberant pitch invasion and players,
new heroes, being carried off shoulder high. Probably
the first time such jubilant scenes had been witnessed
after a goalless friendly.
The following week it was off to AFC Wimbledon,
the club that gave them so much help and inspiration after they
themselves became victims of a businessman who wanted a new
toy, albeit in different circumstances. The club secured a ground
share with Bury FC at Gigg Lane and successfully applied for
membership of the North West Counties Football League. United
made their debut in division two at Leek CSOB. From that rain
soaked competitive debut in August right through to the end-of-season
party in April which saw over 6,023 people turn up to see the
Reds lift the title, an unbelievable amount of fun was had at
every game. There were unforgettable days, such as Blackpool
where Bloomfield Road saw its biggest away following for 20
years when well over 4,000 Reds made the seaside trip. The club
even had an end of season Euro away to Germany to face FC Lokomotiv
But there were also the odd 'downs' sat sombrely
alongside the many 'ups'. In November they said farewell to
two heroes. Steering group and board member Russell Delaney
whose determination despite illness ensured FC United was born,
finally lost his long battle against lung disease and United
legend George Best also passed away. Both received their own
minutes of applause. But sad losses aside, the season was an
unqualified success on and off the pitch and the NWCFL first
division provided the next challenge.
FC United received an early setback at the
start of the 2008/09 season when Rory Patterson and fellow
striker Stuart Rudd, left the club to join rivals Bradford
Park Avenue but manager Karl Marginson found a suitable
replacement in Kyle Wilson, who would go on to become
the club top scorer for the 2008-09 season.
They started the Northern Premier League Premier
Division with an 3-3 draw at home against Matlock Town, before
settling into a mid-table position with a loss and a win in
the next two games. 25 August 2008 saw the biggest crowd of
the season up to that point, 2825, when FC United hosted ex-Football
League team Boston United at Gigg Lane. The match ended 1-0
FC United started their second FA Cup campaign
in the First Round Qualifying away at Nantwich Town. The match
ended goal-less, which meant that the tie would be decided at
Gigg Lane, where FC United almost pulled off a fightback. Three
goals down with 20 mins to go FC scored twice, but Nantwich
held on to deny FC victory. FC United's misfortune in FA Competitions
seemed to give way when they scored in the last minute of the
FA Trophy First Round Qualifying match against Radcliffe Borough,
but their run came to an end with a 3-1 defeat at home by Boston
United in the 3rd Round Qualifying.
An indifferent run of results in the league left
FC stranded in 11th place for several weeks. Gigg Lane witnessed
one of the games of the season when FC United drew a ten goal
thriller with Cammell Laird. 5-2 down with 20 minutes to go,
FC produced one of the best fightbacks in its short history,
to take a point. One of the lowest points of the season came
when FC lost 4-2 at home to rock bottom Leigh Genesis, FC undone
by a hat-trick by former Manchester United starlet Phil Marsh,
who would go on to sign for FC United in the closing months
of the season.
FC United's league form had improved after Christmas,
but still they looked good for a mid table finish at best, with
48 points from 32 games, with only 10 games remaining. United
were also without the services of 24-goal Kyle Wilson, whose
season had been cut short by a knee injury. But FC went on a
remarkable run of 7 wins and 2 draws to start the final week
of the season as favourites to clinch the final play-off spot.
FC United were locked on 71 points from 41 games, with Bradford
P.A. and Kendal Town, but with a better goal difference and
the season was set for a thrilling finish with FC United taking
on Bradford at Gigg Lane on the final day. The winner would
secure the final play-off spot unless Kendal went on a rout
against mid-table Buxton.
Spurred on by the season's biggest crowd of 3718,
FC United looked to be heading for the play-offs with a 1-0
lead, but Bradford equalized with 7 minutes remaining. Kendal
were drawing 2-2 and FC would still have gone through had the
scores remained that way, but Kendal scored in the 88th minute
to break FC United hearts. It was one of the most exciting ends
which the Northern Premier League had seen in recent seasons.
FC United enjoyed a terrific first season in the Northern Premier
League premier division and have set themselves the target of
winning the league next season.
A pre-season trip to South Korea to play Bucheon FC 1995 in front of 23,000 supporters helped FC United bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on promotion for the first time in the club's history and soon they were able to have a second crack at the UniBond Premier Division.
Marginson had to rebuild his squad once again with Kyle Wilson being snapped up by League Two side Macclesfield and influential midfielder Nicky Platt had decided to try his hand playing football in Australia.
The Reds got off to a poor start, losing crucial games to the majority of the division's best sides before the summer was out. A welcome distraction came in the form of the club's best FA Cup run to date, narrowly missing out on making the first round proper but beating Conference North neighbours Stalybridge Celtic 1-0 in a replay after a thrilling 3-3 encounter at Gigg Lane. Northwich Victoria eventually put an end to United's campaign before becoming the season's giant killers by taking the scalp of Charlton Athletic.
Back in the league, FC United's indifferent form was continuing and although the club had a brief flirtation with the play-off places they soon slumped back down into mid-table. The lowest point of the campaign came in March when the Reds were humbled by a team of hardworking youngsters from Durham who beat them 2-1 to record their first victory of the season. United eventually finished in a disappointing 13th place as Guiseley took the title and Boston United gained promotion via the play-offs and the Reds' longest serving player, Rob Nugent announced his retirement.
The 2009/10 campaign was never going to end with an anticlimax though. As well as finally announcing plans to build their own ground in Newton Heath, FC United were invited to play St Pauli on the official date of the Hamburg side's 100th anniversary. An entertaining match ended with a 3-3 draw as Germany's most fervently anti-fascist club welcomed the newest addition to the 'punk football' family. A trip so good it left many of the travelling Red army feeling on top of the world.
The Reds were also invited over to Belfast to play Ireland's oldest football club, Cliftonville. FC United continued the trend of making friends not millionaires and the fellow supporter owned club hosted the visitors from across the water in a commendable fashion.
As well as the two great trips keeping the buzz alive at FC United, there were reasons to be cheerful on the pitch too. The Reds were boosted by several new additions to the squad for the start of the 2010/11 season as Marginson's side mounts its third attempt at the Northern Premier League with renewed vigour.
Records were broken and new heights were reached as FC United of Manchester's sixth season
enthralled from start to finish with twists and turns both on and off the pitch.
The 5th November 2010 will go down in the club's history as being one of our finest hours. The
Reds were competing in the first round proper of the FA Cup for the first ever time in front of a crowd
creating an electric atmosphere, the type of which many onlookers thought didn't exist anymore in
United raced into a 2-0 lead with goals from Nicky Platt and Jake Cottrell against League One side
Rochdale, a team 97 places above them in the football pyramid. However, Dale pulled two back and
the 7,048 fans in Spotland and thousands more watching live on TV, wondered whether the Reds
could hold on for the last 12 minutes to earn a well deserved replay.
Mike Norton had other ideas. With 93 minutes on the clock, FC United's new striker stole the ball from keeper
Josh Lillis' grasp and, whilst evading the Rochdale number one's desperate lunges, rolled the ball into the back of
Words can't describe the scenes that followed but here's one that comes close - pandemonium. FC United of
Manchester had done it and as the final whistle went thousands of supporters poured onto the pitch to celebrate
with their red shirted heroes. A truly magnificent night.
In round two, United gained a 1-1 draw at the soon to be League One champions Brighton and Hove
Albion but it was almost felt like a victory as goalkeeper Sam Ashton saved an injury time penalty to
keep the cup dream alive.
The Reds eventually bowed out in the replay in front of 6,731 supporters, our highest ever crowd at
Gigg Lane, but the fairytale run in the game's oldest cup competition had reminded the world that
supporter-owned football was not only alive and well but also going from strength to strength in
England. More than 1,000 extra members joining the club over the ensuing weeks was testament to
Playing and beating more highly rated opposition had given the players greater belief in themselves
too. After a disappointing autumn and early winter in the league, the Reds were second from bottom
in the Evo-Stik Premier Division by the first week in January and there was talk of a relegation fight by
Thankfully not by Karl Marginson or his assistant Roy Soule though. The FC United management
team knew their squad was good enough to be at the other end of the table. And so it proved. An
incredible run of 14 wins in 19 games saw the Reds climb all the way up to second place by 23rd
During that incredible run, United were dealt a hammer blow out of the blue with the council
announcing that our prospective new home at Ten Acres Lane in Newton Heath was no longer a
viable option due to funding cuts. The club once again demonstrated the never say die attitude that
has been on display so many times before and a new location for our ground was found in Moston.
Back to the pitch and in the end defeat on the final day of the season meant the Reds slipped to
fourth place, which was still their highest ever finish. The final standings resulted in a Thursday night
trip to the Horsfall Stadium to take on Bradford Park Avenue in the play-off semi-final.
United started as underdogs, having never managed to beat Bradford on their own patch despite
five previous attempts. An early goal from Matthew Wolfenden put United in control and with the vast
majority of a lively 2,785 crowd willing the Reds on, an own goal early in the second half settled the tie.
With Avenue overcome, United then travelled to second placed Colwyn Bay on the first May Bank
Holiday Monday with the winners gaining promotion to the Conference North. With top-scorers Norton
and Wright both suspended, it was always going to be a tall order. Despite having the vast majority of
possession, United couldn't find a way through and one second half breakaway goal was enough to
give the Seagulls victory. It was a sad end to an epic season.
However, with plans coming together to have our own ground and community facility - providing
affordable football and much, much more - for the start of the 2013-14 season, the future is definitely
very bright at FC United.
FC United started the season in determined fashion, bursting out the blocks against Stafford Rangers with a goal from Matthew Wolfenden in the first minute. Dean Stott doubled the lead on the stroke of half time to ensure a winning start to the Red’s campaign, brushing off the disappointment of last season’s play-off final defeat.
Wolfenden, who would go on to be voted the Player’s Player of the season, added to his tally in the next fixture against North Ferriby United. In a nine goal thriller, FC United recorded their biggest win of the campaign that ended 6-3 at Bower Fold, with a flurry of goals late on in one of the most exciting games of the season.
With less than ten minutes to go and drawing three a piece, it seemed like the points would be shared after battling displays from both teams. FC United pressed hard and finally Ferriby crumbled and conceded an own goal to push the Reds in front once again. Carlos Roca piled on further misery and slotted home from the penalty spot, whilst Steve Torpey rounded things off in the closing minutes.
After a couple of disappointing defeats at the hands of Chasetown and Chester, FC United were back to winning ways with a 4-0 victory at Buxton, setting things up nicely for the visit of promotion rivals Bradford Park Avenue. FC United thumped the visitors 5-2 in front of a lively crowd of almost 2,000. The score line would be repeated in January at the Horsfall Stadium to complete a memorable double over the West Yorkshire side.
The heroics of last season’s FA Cup run could not be emulated after defeat to Lancaster City in the second qualifying round but the Reds did reach new levels in the FA Trophy. After dumping Frickley Athletic, Durham and Altrincham out of the competition, the Reds travelled to face Conference North side Guiseley in the first round. In a determined display, the Reds hit the woodwork twice but just couldn’t break through. Two goals late on ended the FA Trophy cup run leaving the Reds to focus on the league instead.
A bright start was made to the New Year, in a convincing and confident 5-2 thumping of rivals Bradford Park Avenue on their own patch. Goals from supporter’s player of the season Adam Jones and top scorer Mike Norton ensured the Reds moved to within a point of their sixth placed hosts.
In the remaining league games of the season, FC United raised their promotion push with ten wins, four draws and just five defeats. Despite this rich vein of form, the dream of another promotion via the play-offs lay in the balance right up to the final league game of the season at home to Northwich Victoria.
The visitors were found guilty of failure to comply with the League Rules relating to financial matters and the outcome of the initial hearing was for Northwich to be removed from the league. If the decision stood then FC United would take up the Vic’s play-off place.
But with an appeal lodged by the club, the only way FC United could ensure making the play-offs safely would be to do it themselves. The Reds had to win their clash with second-place Northwich Victoria and hope Worksop could cause an upset against Hednesford.
A crowd of 2,542 turned out to watch the nerve-racking climax to season, but they needn’t worry as the Reds delivered in style, with a solid 4-1 victory to ensure they did all they could in the last push for the play-offs.
FC United finished the season sixth, but as the decision by the FA was ruled to relegate Northwich Victoria from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, the Reds took their golden ticket to face Chorley in the play-off semi-final.
A quality strike from Mike Norton just past the hour mark and a goal from substitute Astley Mulholland was enough to seal a second successive play-off final appearance, this time against rivals Bradford Park Avenue.
After knocking the West Yorkshire side out of last season’s play-off semi final and completing a humiliating double 5-2 drubbing this campaign, Bradford Park Avenue were out for revenge.
In a closely fought contest between the two sides, the deadlock could not be broken by the 90 minute mark, and so play continued into extra time. As penalties loomed, Tom Greaves poached the late winner that dealt the cruellest of blows. With less than two minutes to go there simply wasn’t enough time for FC United to respond. It was another sad ending to the season but looking back, it was one with plenty of positives, both on and off the pitch to demonstrate a club that continues to flourish.
During the season several community initiatives such as the Big Coat Day, People United and Youth United Days were held which lead to the Reds being awarded as the Football Foundation Community Club of the Year. It also marked the establishment of the women’s football team and the target £1.6 million fund was raised to build the new stadium and community sports facility.
Season review by Richard Jones.
A six-goal thriller made for an explosive opener to the campaign, as FC United came from behind to win 4-2 away at Grantham Town. It was also the beginning of a six game unbeaten run, and the best start to a season the Reds have had in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League. The Reds also fared pretty well in the domestic competitions, with several talking points:
The FA Trophy and Manchester Premier Cup -
Over 800 fans turned out to watch an emphatic comeback against Mossley AFC at Gigg Lane in the FA Trophy. The visitors found themselves three up on the hour mark, but Chris Amadi’s double brace and a last gasp goal from Jerome Wright earned a replay three days later, which the Reds went on to win 3-1.
In the Manchester Premier Cup, there was almost a repeat performance of the last time the two sides met. Again, the Reds were three goals down; only this time before the break. Despite a late rally and another double from Chris Amadi, AFC Mossley held on to inflict their revenge.
Mike Norton opened the scoring after just ten minutes at the Daniels Stadium in the FA Trophy, but two late goals from Stamford’s Gary King and Danny Brooks ended the cup run.
The FA Cup -
This season, the Reds recorded their biggest victory in the competition, with a five goal dismantling of Cammell Laird in the second qualifying round. The Reds then made the short trip to face Salford City. Nicky Platt bagged a hat-trick, but a late flurry from the hosts caused a nervy climax to the game. Salford pulled two back when Dean Stott put the ball in his own net and Nathan McDonald converted from the spot, but the Reds held on.
Kendal Town were next on the hit-list, as FC United came from behind to dump the Cumbrians out the competition, with a convincing 3-1 victory. The stage was now set to try and take the scalp of Conference side Hereford United in the next round. A 2,012-strong crowd turned out at Gigg Lane in the hope of a cup upset, but two goals from Hereford’s Ryan Bowman saw FC United bow out to focus on the league and a third attempt at promotion.
Attentions return to the league
After exits in most of the domestic competitions, Matthew Wolfenden’s double in the 2-1 win over Ashton United in the league got the ball rolling again at the end of October. Just three more defeats were conceded for the rest of the year, as the promotion push continued.
The Reds made a brilliant start to 2013, with a ten match unbeaten run, eventually ended in March by Chorley. FC United stormed to a decisive end to the campaign, clocking up six wins and just one draw to finish third and full of confidence, ready for the play-off semi-final against Witton Albion.
The Play-Offs -
Matthew Wolfenden settled any nerves for the Gigg Lane faithful, with a speculative long-distance strike after just nine minutes. By half time, the lead was doubled thanks to a cool finish from Astley Mulholland.
Albion came out in a determined fashion after the break and pressed hard to get back in the game. A tangle in the box saw the visitors awarded a penalty that Josh Hancock duly dispatched to give the visitors a short-lived lifeline. Just fifteen minutes later, Dean Stott sealed the deal from the spot to book a play-off final place against Hednesford Town.
The final - The Pitmen stunned FC United, as Neil Harvey slotted home moments after kick-off and Jamey Osborne doubled the lead half an hour later. If FC United were to do it, it would have to be done the hard way and the large travelling masses were in full voice to urge the Reds on. Mike Norton headed home from a corner just before the hour mark and the tables seemed to turn.
The goal gave a renewed belief as the Reds pressed on with several more chances, but Hednesford held on to clinch promotion. When Matthew Wolfenden’s effort clattered the woodwork it summed up the season - once again, agonisingly close. Despite defeat at the final hurdle, FC United fans celebrated the club at the final whistle.
Looking back -
The season may have been third time unlucky in the play-offs, but it has been one with lots of achievement that the fans, players and wider community should remember to drive the club forward in the next campaign. The club won the Fair Play and the Co-Operative Media awards, whilst Kyle Jacobs and Adam Jones featured in the Premier Division team of the year. Karl Marginson was also voted manager of the month for February.
The squad has been strengthened, with the signatures of North Ferriby United’s versatile midfielder Oliver Banks, and German centre-back Kevin Masirika. Midfielder Sergio Rodriguez is another prospect for the club from Real Aviles, who are in the same league as Athletico Madrid Reserves and Real Oviedo, where Chelsea’s Juan Mata and Swansea’s Michu began their playing careers.
Community initiatives like the Big Coat Day continued, and collected six tonnes of clothing for the homeless and needy across Manchester. Personal development courses through football and coaching, Youth United Day and free football sessions during February half term have also continued to help local young people.
Season review by Richard Jones.