Guest Blog – James Ernest Mangnall, The Architect of Manchester Football by Iain McCartney

The links between the blue and the red half of Manchester are many, although there are some who will quickly deny the others mere existence. Fortunately, there are others who will embrace those historic, and often welcome links between the two bitter rivals, history being more important than the colour of a football shirt.

The links, as I said, are many, but if only three were to be listed, it is arguable that these would be, in no particular order, Sir Matt Busby, Billy Meredith and Denis Law for self-explanatory reasons. There is, however, one man who should nudge all three of those legendary figures out of the way, a man from the distant past, but one whose place in the history of both City and United is assured, but sadly, often forgotten. His name? John Ernest Mangnall.

Born in Bolton in January 1866, Mangnall also stakes a claim in the history of his local club, and that of near neighbours Burnley, a proud Lancastrian, but it is in Cottonopolis that he comes to the fore and more so during his time with Manchester United.

But for the meantime, let’s push Ernest Mangnall’s footballing credentials to the side [his given first name being lost in the mists of time] and look at the man from a much different sporting angle.

It might be said that football, a game that he played with the same enthusiasm that he carried forward into his managerial positions, was not even his first love, as he was more than a keen cyclist, being a member of various clubs, entering races and most notably cycling between John O’Groats and Lands End, at a time when bicycles were certainly not built for comfort.

Having cut his managerial teeth with Burnley, although he had helped steer Bolton along the way from the boardroom, as a director, he found is way to the dull, dreary surroundings of Clayton in 1903, with many possibly correct in thinking he was a glutton for punishment, as United were little more than a struggling side and had been rescued from what could easily have been oblivion by J.H. Davies. They had also recently changed their name from Newton Heath to Manchester United.

Appointed in place of James West, who had resigned as secretary, Mangnall embraced the role of the man not simply answered the mail and carried out other menial tasks, but took on the running of the club as a whole. Purchasing postage stamps of players made little difference.

Slowly Mangnall began to blend a team together and following a handful of near but not quite near enough finishes, he guided United out of the Second Division and into the top flight at the end of the 1905-06 season where, thanks to his now neighbours City finding themselves in a spot of bother, he ‘stole’ Burgess, Meredith, Bannister and Sandy Turnbull from his rivals and with the likes of Charlie Roberts and Dick Duckworth already at United, he had a more than capable team at his finger tips, creating a team that gave Manchester United their first domestic trophies with the League championship in 1908 and the FA Cup in 1909. The former was also won in 1911, plus success in the FA Charity Shield in 1908 and 1911.

Not only was he instrumental in building a strong United team on the field, he was more than involved in dragging the club away from its slum like home at Clayton and moving to pastures new at Old Trafford.

But all good things come to an end at some point or other and having perhaps achieved as much as he could at Old Trafford, Mangnall made the surprise move across town and joined neighbours City in August 1912. What the club and manager hoped to achieve failed to materialise, but as he had done with United, he played a major part in City’s move to Maine Road.

So, that is the career of Ernest Mangnall in a nutshell, but if you want to learn more about that man then his biography is available now from Empire Publications, 229 Ayres Road, Old Trafford, Manchester, M16 0NL UK Tel: 0161 872 3319 or 1 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1HW – telephone 0161 872 3319.

As something of a postscript.

I created ‘The Manchester United Graves Society’ a couple of years or so back, whereby I am trying to locate the burial places [or cremation details] of as many former players and officials as possible and to date have found over 500. One of the early finds was John Ernest Mangnall, who died at Lytham St Annes in January 1932, and is buried in the Lytham Park Cemetery.

Upon obtaining a photograph of his grave, I was saddened to find that the headstone was broken and the grave in general was in need of some TLC. So, enquiries were made with the cemetery as regards to any red tape that would cause problems in restoring the grave to its former glory and thankfully there were none. To be honest, they were more than delighted that someone wanted to carry out restoration work on the grave.

Funds were raised, a stone mason contacted and the work was carried out. Photos of before and after are shown here.

Should anyone want to visit the grave, it can be found at – A – 512 C/E. Go in the main gate and head up to your right.

Leeds City Auction

On this day (17 October) 1919 defender Thomas Lamph was bought in an auction of Leeds City players by Manchester City. Leeds City had collapsed due to financial issues. A little over 6 years after joining City Lamph died in Leeds at the age of 33.

The Great Billy Meredith

101 years ago today the great Billy Meredith returned to Manchester City from Manchester United. This was the third time the legendary Welsh player had joined the Blues – a club he continued to watch and support until his death in 1958. I discussed his life and career with his daughter Winifred (who was 98 at the time) and his grandson Ian Pringle many years ago and they both talked fondly and passionately about his Manchester City connections.

Here for subscribers is a detailed profile of Billy Meredith I wrote about 17 years ago. It appeared in my Hall Of Fame book. Enjoy….

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Manchester City November 1914

This is a squad photo of Manchester City, who then led the League and Central League, from November 1914. There are many, many things to say about this image and the people featured but sadly I don’t have time today. A couple of brief points though – look out for Albert Alexander senior (City director) in bow tie crouching and Pat McGuire (3rd player from left on back row) who was sadly killed in WW1. There are a few men on here who were also significant at MUFC including Ernest Mangnall (manager) and Leslie Knighton (assistant manager).

November 1920 and A Controversial Offer by MUFC

Back in November 1920 Manchester City’s main stand at Hyde Road was destroyed by fire. City asked United if they could move to Old Trafford but their terms were prohibitive according to the media of the day. This report was typical of the reaction. You can read the full story in Manchester A Football History which subscribers to GJFootballArchive.com get as part of their subscription. For more details see: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/09/manchester-a-football-history-part-one/

Olympic Blues

Today I’m taking a look at links between City and Olympic gold winning medallists, in particular I’m focusing on City star Max Woosnam and Manuel Estiarte, a member of Pep’s staff.

This article is available to subscribers to my site. Subscribing costs £20 a year and subscribers have full access to everything posted on the site, including audio interviews with John Bond, Malcolm Allison, George Graham and others, plus the entire text of Manchester A Football History and a PDF of my first book From Maine Men to Banana Citizens. You can always try it out by subscribing £3 per month and cancel at any time. No matter whether you sign up for a year or a month at a time you get full access to everything for as long as you are a subscriber.

Anyway, here’s the article…

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Opening Winning Sequences

Pep Guardiola officially became Manchester City manager on July 1 2016 (five years ago today). When he arrived his opening run of competitive games prompted much discussion on the opening achievements of his predecessors. I ended up trawling through the opening months of every City manager to establish whether Pep’s opening results (ten successive wins!) were the best achieved by any Blues’ boss.

Here for subscribers is the result of that trawl…

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Dismissed, Resigned, Fired; Dismissed, Fired, Survived

First published shortly after Mark Hughes was dismissed as MCFC manager in 2009-10

With the ‘trajectory of results’ hailed as a reason, the December dismissal of Mark Hughes as Manchester City manager prompted many to claim that the sacking was a symptom of new owners coming in without a care for the history and traditions of the game.  The appointment of Roberto Mancini means that during the Noughties, awful phrase I know, City had six managers – Joe Royle (dismissed), Kevin Keegan (resigned), Stuart Pearce (fired), Sven Goran Ericsson (dismissed), Mark Hughes (fired) and Roberto Mancini (at the time of going to press – survived).  

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