Before Best, Beckham And Bruno: The United Podcast That Travels Through Time

The podcast that explores the important figures of Man Utd's early history
16:00, 11 Apr 2020

Only three men in the history of football have won the English top-tier championship title with Manchester United as manager

Only one of them was English.

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Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson have had enough written on them to fill Manchester Central Library, but the podcast United Through Time returns to help illuminate the life of Ernest Magnall, the first manager to bring the league title to the red half of the city and brought that initial taste of success to a club that would become known for its voracious appetite for it.

The series returns after a year-long absence to continue its excellent documentation of some of the formative characters who in the late 19th and early 20th Century helped establish what would be one of the most famous and successful football clubs on the planet.

The latest episode presents the ‘cigar-chomping fitness fanatic’ that was Magnall, still also the only man to have ever managed both United and Manchester City. Alongside chairman John Henry Davies who has previously been granted his own episode by the podcast, Bolton-born Magnall helped instigate United’s move from Bank Street in Clayton to the site of what would eventually become known worldwide as the Theatre of Dreams.

“Before he arrived they were an ordinary second division side suffering perennial financial anguish,’ the podcast recounts, “and when he left they were the two-time champions of England.”

United Through Time stands out within the plethora of podcasts relating to the historic club and indeed football in general, with meticulous research, unobtrusive interviews with Mancunian historians, anecdotal recordings with descendants, and the recreation of era-sounds and noises that place the listener in the industrial early 1900s north-west.

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Presenter Harry Robinson takes the listener from the muddy pitch of those early days on Newton Heath, along the Manchester Ship Canal, into the bustling hullabaloo of the pubs and clubs that the dog who saved Manchester United from the brink of extinction padded around with his collection tin.

Episodes have so far explored the stories of Louis Rocca, who proclaimed to have given the club its name, the aforementioned Davies dragging the club away from bankruptcy, and United’s ‘first Captain Marvel’ Harry Stafford, a pub landlord who died penniless in Quebec, with certain figures sporadically rearing their heads across the series, including Billy Meredith, one of the very first players to cross the hallowed divide between blue and red, and ultimately helped Manchester United win the FA Cup and those first two titles.

For the die-hard Devil, the football enthusiast, or the amateur historian, spare some minutes to be United Through Time.