Manchester United: 6 Men Who Made the Club What It Is

Mike HytnerContributor ISeptember 29, 2011

Manchester United: 6 Men Who Made the Club What It Is

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    Manchester United fans will tell you that theirs is the greatest club in the world. There are certain to be plenty of rival supporters who would argue with that assertion, but there can be no denying that United are a long-standing, successful and proud club with rich traditions that have been adhered to through the generations.

    But who are the individuals who can be credited with shaping the club as we know it today? Here we take a look at six men who can say they have had a hand in making Manchester United Football Club the institution is it today.

Duncan Edwards

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    United have never been afraid of putting their faith in youth, and no one player typifies this more than Duncan Edwards—who made his debut at the tender age of 16 back in 1953.

    A member of the Busby Babes, Edwards quickly rose to prominence before his life was tragically cut short soon after that fateful night on an icy runway in Munich.

    Not only was Edwards' prowess on a football pitch mourned, but so too was the loss of a young man whose character and demeanour away from the field of play was always exemplary.

    Edwards remains a shining example of how a United player is to this day expected to perform and behave.  

Bobby Charlton

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    A team-mate of Edwards, Charlton survived Munich and went on to become, more than anyone, 'Mr. Manchester United'.

    His return from the brink—team-mate Harry Gregg, who pulled Charlton out of the wreckage, thought he was dead—back to the very top of the football tree was nothing short of miraculous.

    The determination, bravery and never-say-die attitude shown by Charlton set a tone for the club which still remains today.

    After his playing career ended, Charlton moved upstairs where he remains today a fine ambassador and a peerless figurehead for the club.

Matt Busby

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    The man who dug the foundations for Manchester United as we know the club today, Busby oversaw two of the great United sides.

    His Babes threatened to be the best ever until eight of them perished in Munich, while the team that rose phoenix-like from the ashes went on to win two league titles, an FA Cup and, of course, a European Cup.

    Busby's policy of bringing players through the ranks has stuck to this day, and it is his achievements on the continent that have left the likes of Alex Ferguson with such a fascination with the competition.

    Busby died in 1994 and when, as a tribute soon after his death, a lone piper lead out United and Everton players on to the Old Trafford pitch, the tear-jerking emotion inside the stadium was a fitting testament to how he was thought of at the club.

Bryan Robson

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    'Captain Marvel'.

    Never has a moniker been more appropriate.

    Robson embodied the spirit of United by wearing his heart on his sleeve and giving 100 per cent on the pitch all the time. The England skipper was so committed to the cause, it seemed to bother him not that on occasion his gung-ho attitude did himself harm.

    It's not always a sensible policy, but it's one that endeared him to the fans, his fellow players and every manager he worked under.

    The United teams for which he played the majority of his career were not vintage by any stretch, but Robson would have stood head and shoulders above the rest at most other clubs and his legacy at United is a strong one.

Alex Ferguson

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    What else is there to say that hasn't been said before about Ferguson?

    One of the most successful managers in the history of the game, Fergie has won everything there is to win at club level.

    Yet perhaps what makes Ferguson's achievements even more remarkable is that when he arrived at the club, like every manager before him, he found himself in the shadow of Matt Busby.

    Emulating such a great man had been the end of many before him, but Ferguson was able to shrug off the shackles of expectation and even surpass the markers that had been laid down.

    Ferguson has been at the club since 1986 and so ingrained is he into the fabric of the club, it's hard to imagine him not being there. 

Ryan Giggs

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    Ferguson's protégé, Giggs is that rare entity in the modern-day game: a world-class, yet one-club footballer.

    On the pitch, Giggs' career at United has been second to none. He is the most decorated player in English football history—12 Premier League, four FA Cup, three League Cup and two Champions League winner's medals —and in his pomp he was one of the most exciting.

    Even now, in his deeper-lying playmaking role, Giggs is still a joy to watch, and during his 21 seasons he has become a true icon of the club. So much so, that even his recent, alleged off the pitch indiscretions seem to have been swept under the carpet and swiftly forgotten.