Manchester United

Every Man Utd manager since the club joined the Football League in 1892

Jamie Spencer
Sir Alex Ferguson is Man Utd's most famous & most successful manager
Sir Alex Ferguson is Man Utd's most famous & most successful manager / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Manchester United manager is one of the biggest jobs in all of football.

The club is among the most successful in the world, drawing fans from all corners of the globe, and expectation is always through the roof after decades of success.

United have struggled by their own standards in recent years, but that is nothing new when tracing the club's history back to bygone and long forgotten eras. What's more, when times have been tough in the past, there has also been someone around the corner waiting to deliver success again.

Although Newton Heath, as United were originally known, were formed in 1878, it wasn't until 1892 when the team gained entry into the Football League that the club employed a full-time manager.

130 years on, more than 25 people have taken on that role in various capacities...

1. A.H. Albut (club secretary)

Man Utd manager: 1892 - 1900
Win rate: unknown

A.H. Albut is generally considered to be Newton Heath's first full-time employee and also the club's first real manager.

Although 'manager' wasn't a term in common use back then as we know it today, Albut was, as club secretary, responsible for all team affairs, including picking the XI on a matchday. He was also heavily involved in the fledgling club moving grounds to Bank Road - home before Old Trafford - in 1893.

2. James West (club secretary)

Man Utd manager: 1900 - 1903
Games: 113
Win rate: 40.7%

Still a secretary rather than a 'manager', James West has the honour of being the last person in charge of Newton Heath and the first person in charge of Manchester United after the 1902 name change.

Having briefly played in the First Division under predecessor Albut, United were a second tier side throughout West's time at the club.

3. Ernest Mangnall (club secretary)

Manchester United football team for 1911
Ernest Mangnall won Man Utd's first trophies / Culture Club/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 1903 - 1912
Games: 373
Win rate: 54.2%

United's first era of success in the early years of the 20th century came under the guidance of Bolton-born Ernest Mangnall, who remains the only person ever to manage both Manchester United and Manchester City.

Mangnall's team earned promotion to the First Division in 1906, won the title two years later, as well as the inaugural Charity Shield match. Another league title followed in 1911, plus the club's maiden FA Cup win in 1909.

Many believe Mangnall to have been instrumental in United's move to Old Trafford in 1910, with Bank Street no longer considered fit for purpose.

4. T.J. Wallworth (acting club secretary)

Man Utd manager: 1912
Games: 6
Win rate: 50%

When Mangnall swapped red for blue in 1912 and joined Manchester City, control of United briefly went to acting club secretary T.J. Wallworth.

5. John Bentley (club secretary)

Man Utd manager: 1912 - 1914
Games: 82
Win rate: 43.9%

John Bentley's premiership at United did not come close to matching that of Mangnall. At a time when his job still included overseeing all aspects of the club's affairs, legend has it he neglected actually running the team.

Bentley had originally been an accountant and a journalist, before being a founder committee member of the Football League in 1888 and later its president from1894 until 1910, as well vice-president of the FA.

6. John Robson

Man Utd manager: 1914 - 1921
Games: 139
Win rate: 29.5%

As United moved away from the idea of a full-time secretary overseeing club operations, John Robson was arguably the first 'manager' in a more modern sense.

On the pitch, the First World War halted English football at the end of the 1914/15 campaign and Robson only took charge of three seasons in total - all of which resulted in bottom half finishes in the First Division. He resigned in late 1921 due to ill health and died less than three months later.

7. John Chapman

Man Utd manager: 1921 - 1926
Games: 221
Win rate: 38.9%

The 1920s marked the start of a tumultuous and not often talked about period in United's history. Scottish manager John Chapman, the club's first non-English boss, arrived in 1921 but relegation followed a year later.

Chapman did eventually take the team back to the top flight in 1925 but bizarrely left the club under a cloud in 1926 when the FA suspended him for 'improper conduct'. No details as to why were ever released.

8. Lal Hilditch (player-manager)

Man Utd manager: 1926 - 1927
Games: 33
Win rate: 30.3%

All told, Lal Hilditch was a United player for 16 years and played well over 300 games for the club after previously playing at a lower level in Cheshire with Hartford, Witton Albion and Altrincham.

But in the middle of that spell, he was appointed player-manager at the age of 32, replacing Chapman until the end of the 1926/27 season. Hilditch continued his playing career thereafter and stayed until retiring in 1932.

9. Herbert Bamlett

Man Utd manager: 1927 - 1931
Games: 183
Win rate: 31.2%

Prior to becoming a football manager, Herbert Bamlett was a referee and actually officiated the 1914 FA Cup final. He arrived at Old Trafford after spells at Oldham, Wigan Borough and Middlesbrough.

Bamlett's spell wasn't a success, largely against huge financial concerns after owner John Henry Davies - who had saved the club in 1902 - died in 1927. His contract wasn't renewed after relegation in 1931.

10. Walter Crickmer (caretaker)

Man Utd manager: 1931 - 1932; 1937 - 1945
Games: 119
Win rate: 39.5%

Walter Crickmer was United's long-serving club secretary who twice took temporary control as caretaker manager during difficult periods - once in 1931 for a season in the Second Division and again in 1937.

Crickmer's greatest legacy was a central role in establishing the club's youth system alongside new owner James W. Gibson in the late 1930s.

Later back in his role as club secretary, he was tragically among those killed in the Munich air disaster in 1958.

11. Scott Duncan

Scott Duncan
Man Utd were a second tier club under Scott Duncan / J. A. Hampton/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 1932 - 1937
Games: 235
Win rate: 39.2%

Scott Duncan was part of a relatively new breed of football manager when he was appointed United boss in 1932 as someone who had previously been a professional player himself, rather than solely an administrator.

Duncan inherited a United side in the Second Division and did eventually achieve promotion in 1936, followed immediately by another relegation. But he also holds the unwanted record of overseeing the club's lowest ever finish since entering the Football League - 20th in the second tier.

12. Sir Matt Busby

Matt Busby
Matt Busby built Man Utd's modern identity / Norman Quicke/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 1945 - 1969; 1970 - 1971
Games: 1,141
Win rate: 50.5%

Modern Manchester United was properly born the day that Matt Busby was recruited in the final months of the Second World War in 1945. It was a struggling club in the two decades before the war, but the arrival of Busby and the fruits of Gibson's financial support quickly brought rewards.

The Scot delivered United's first trophy in 37 years in the shape of the 1948 FA Cup and followed it up with three league titles in the 1950s, with an increasingly home-grown squad - the Busby Babes.

The tragedy of the Munich air disaster in 1958 threatened to kill the club and Busby himself had to be persuaded to continue over the guilt he felt for the deaths of eight of his players and several others in the crash.

10 years after Munich, a new United team born from the ashes finally captured the elusive European Cup that had long driven Busby. But when he stepped down in 1969 and moved into the boardroom, his shadow continued to hang over the club, resulting in a brief but largely unsuccessful return to management in 1970.

13. Jimmy Murphy (caretaker)

Jimmy Murphy helped keep Man Utd alive in 1958
Jimmy Murphy helped keep Man Utd alive in 1958 / Evening Standard/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 1958
Games: 22
Win rate: 22.7%

With Busby fighting for his life in hospital in the months after the Munich crash, trusted assistant Jimmy Murphy kept United alive in tremendously challenging circumstances.

He had only missed the fateful European trip himself due to an existing commitment to the Wales national team, but led a patched up United team to the 1958 FA Cup final at Wembley.

14. Wilf McGuinness

Man Utd manager: 1969 - 1970
Games: 87
Win rate: 36.8%

One of the lesser known Busby Babes whose playing career was cut short by a knee injury in 1959, Wilf McGuinness was handed the unenviable task of trying to replace the legendary Busby at the helm.

Having been a coach and then reserve team manager, he was promoted to first-team boss but was still only 31 at the time. McGuinness did take United to three semi-finals but was sacked after 18 months and Busby returned.

15. Frank O'Farrell

Frank O'Farrell
Frank O'Farrell was presented with a tough transition period / Keystone/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 1971 - 1972
Games: 81
Win rate: 37%

Handpicked by Busby, Irishman Frank O'Farrell was the legend's second successor at Old Trafford and similarly struggled as he desperately attempted to keep an ageing squad from coming apart at the seams.

The 1971/72 season started well, but with Bobby Charlton and Denis Law past their peak and George Best increasingly unpredictable, things crumbled. O'Farrell, who was often praised for his pleasantness and dignity, lasted 18 months before being shown the door in December 1972.

16. Tommy Docherty

Tommy Docherty
Tommy Docherty was a cult figure of the 1970s / Central Press/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 1972 - 1977
Games: 228
Win rate: 46.9%

Still struggling to find a new path in the post-Busby years, United turned to former Chelsea and Scotland boss Tommy Docherty in 1972. Within two years, the club was back in the Second Division for the first time since 1938.

A new-look United returned to the top flight at the first attempt in 1975, with Docherty later going on to deliver the FA Cup in a famous Wembley win over Liverpool - ultimately denying the Merseysiders a treble.

But barely any sooner had Docherty given United fans something to celebrate, he was sacked in scandal when it was revealed he was having an affair with the wife of club physio Laurie Brown.

17. Dave Sexton

Dave Sexton
Dave Sexton had made his name as Chelsea boss / Mike Stephens/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 1977 - 1981
Games: 201
Win rate: 40.3%

Dave Sexton was given the United job to replace Docherty in 1977, having already replaced the Scot at Chelsea a decade previously. But he too was unable to deliver the success that the club and fans craved.

Having been briefly competitive in the top half under his predecessor, Sexton's United slipped to 10th in his first season. He did, however, guide the club to second place in 1980, a highest league finish since 1968, but lost his job a year later after falling away again instead of pushing on.

18. Ron Atkinson

Ron Atkinson
Ron Atkinson won FA Cups but not league titles / R. Viner/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 1981 - 1986
Games: 292
Win rate: 50%

Despite the success that came later, transforming the landscape of English, European and world football, Ron Atkinson's five years in the Old Trafford hot-seat were by no means a failure.

Atkinson brought the kind of consistency that United had lacked since Busby's time in charge, never finishing lower than fourth in the final league table - albeit never higher than third. He also delivered FA Cup triumphs in 1983 and 1985, plus a League Cup final.

19. Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson brought unprecedented levels of success / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 1986 - 2013
Games: 1,500
Win rate: 59.7%

In 1986, a suddenly struggling United turned to an up and coming Scottish manager who had made a big name for himself north of the border with Aberdeen, even beating Real Madrid to win the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

Initially, Alex Ferguson fell into the same pitfalls as his predecessors, only able to turn in mediocre league finishes - aside from jumping to second place in 1988 - and failing even to match Atkinson's trophy record.

But a transformation project was going on behind the scenes as Fergie turned the pages back to the identity first laid out by Busby forty years earlier. He also needed to buy time for the benefits of that to be seen and eventually won the FA Cup in 1990 and Cup Winners' Cup in 1991.

A first league title in 26 years finally came as English football welcomed the Premier League era in the early 1990s, with two decades of success then underpinned by a core of home-grown talent.

In total, Ferguson won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cup, the Champions League twice, four League Cups and four other international trophies. It is a record that makes him arguably the greatest manager of all time and, as United have found since his 2013 retirement, impossible to replace.

20. David Moyes

David Moyes
David Moyes was Alex Ferguson's handpicked successor / Jamie McDonald/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 2013 - 2014
Games: 51
Win rate: 52.9%

History has means of repeating itself and the way that Busby's hand-picked successors couldn't replicate his success was seen once more after Ferguson personally chose David Moyes to replace him.

Moyes had enjoyed consistent success within the restraints of being Everton manager for a decade. But at United he found himself caught between trying to adapt to a much bigger club and still keeping his own identity that had served him so well. It also didn't help that a new senior management structure above him was being installed at the same time.

Ultimately, results weren't good enough - Moyes himself has often insisted in the years since that he needed more time - and the metaphorical axe was swung only 10 months into a six-year contract.

21. Ryan Giggs (caretaker player-manager)

Ryan Giggs
Ryan Giggs was Man Utd manager for four games / Ian Walton/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 2014
Games: 4
Win rate: 50%

Aged 40, Ryan Giggs was yet to hang up his boots when he was appointed caretaker boss for the final four games of the 2013/14 season, and so became United's first player-manager in nearly 90 years.

Giggs won two of his four games in charge, losing one and drawing the other. He also notably handed surprise debuts to academy talents James Wilson and Tom Lawrence and later became assistant manager once a new permanent boss was chosen that summer.

22. Louis van Gaal

Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal couldn't replicate his success from previous clubs / Catherine Ivill - AMA/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 2014 - 2016
Games: 103
Win rate: 52.4%

Louis van Gaal arrived at United with a big reputation in 2014. He had just guided Netherlands to third place at the World Cup and was a revered club coach for his success with Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The club spent a lot of money on new signings after the shock of failing to qualify for European football the previous season, but things never felt cohesive enough to provide a foundation for any real success.

Van Gaal delivered the FA Cup in 2016, United's first trophy since Ferguson retired, but was widely panned for his rigid and often boring playing style.

The Dutchman himself has not spoken kindly of United since he was sacked immediately after winning his trophy, speaking critically on a number of occasions about it being run as a business and not a football club.

23. Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho delivered two trophies in the 2016/17 season / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 2016 - 2018
Games: 144
Win rate: 58.3%

Jose Mourinho's arrival divided United fans in 2016. The former Chelsea boss had built his reputation as a serial winner but was also seen as the ultimate short-term pragmatist and not in keeping with the club's philosophy. There was additional concern over how spectacularly things had gone wrong for him during a second spell at Chelsea.

Mourinho's name was enough to attract the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku to the club and success did come in the form of League Cup and Europa League titles in his first season.

But problems behind the scenes persisted and the Portuguese later claimed that, despite all his successes in management, finishing second with United in 2017/18 was his greatest achievement. The following season began with a toxic backdrop and Mourinho was soon sacked.

24. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
For a time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked set to win trophies / Charlie Crowhurst/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 2018 - 2022
Games: 168
Win rate: 54.2%

First as interim manager and then on a permanent contract, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's time as United boss was the ultimate rollercoaster ride, featuring many enormous highs but also plenty of utterly woeful lows.

The Norwegian's surprise appointment came as a breath of fresh air after the Mourinho experiment ended badly and he started with eight consecutive away wins. His United side even completed a miraculous Champions League comeback against PSG, before results dropped off.

The 2019/20 season is best described in two halves, before and after the coronavirus pandemic halted all football, while United consistently reached semi-finals under Solskjaer but couldn't land an elusive trophy.

Despite the 2021/22 season being billed as one that United could finally challenge for major honours again, his dismissal came in late 2021 following a string of embarrassing results.

25. Michael Carrick (caretaker)

Michael Carrick
Michael Carrick had a few games in charge in late 2021 / OLI SCARFF/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 2021
Games: 3
Win rate: 66.7%

Michael Carrick played 464 games for United and was immediately hired for the coaching staff when he retired in 2018. He remained part of the backroom team and was asked to lead when Solskjaer sacked in 2021.

Of three games in charge against Villarreal, Arsenal and Chelsea, United won two of them and drew with the latter.

26. Ralf Rangnick (interim)

Ralf Rangnick
Ralf Rangnick was brought in as interim in December 2021 / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

Man Utd manager: 2021 - 2022
Games: 29
Win rate: 37.9%

United turned to veteran German coach Ralf Rangnick to guide the team to the end of the 2021/22 season, with a plan for him to then become some sort of advisor in rebuilding the club's long-term football structure.

Things started well enough, yet Rangnick soon encountered the same problems as both Mourinho and Solskjaer in that he seemed unable to motivate a team performing well below the sum of its individuals.

27. Erik ten Hag

Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag is the second Dutchman to lead Man Utd / BSR Agency/GettyImages

Erik ten Hag began work as Manchester United's permanent manager in the summer of 2022 on a three-year contract.

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