The past
The glamour of modern-day Manchester United is a different world from the club's humble origins as Newton Heath LYR (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway), founded by railway workers in 1878. After joining the Football League in 1892, they changed their name to Manchester United a decade later and in 1908 celebrated their first league championship.

It was not until after the Second World War, however, that United began to build a reputation for winning football under the legendary Matt Busby. Yet after winning three league titles in the 50s, the Scot's exciting young side, the 'Busby Babes', was decimated by the Munich air disaster of February 1958 claimed the lives of 23 people, eight of them players.

Busby recovered from serious injuries to build another team, featuring such greats as Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, and a decade later he saw them win the European Cup for the first time with a 4-1 win over Benfica. However, the successes of the 60s gave way to a relatively barren period which included relegation (followed by swift promotion) in the 70s and it was not until Sir Alex Ferguson took the reins in 1986 that another successful era began at Old Trafford.

After ending the long wait for a league title in 1993, United have dominated English football and enjoyed UEFA Champions League and intercontinental successes in 1999.

The present
Many observers feel that the current United team is Ferguson's third great side, the others being the one that won the league and FA Cup double in 1994 and the treble-winning team of 1999. With the experience of Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes complementing the energy and enthusiasm of the club's younger players, the Scot has created another recipe for success.

The 2007/08 season saw the club successfully complete the league and Champions League double. Following the penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea in Moscow on 21 May 2008, they earned the club's third continental title and maintained their proud record of never having lost a major European final.

Coincidentally, this season marked the 100th year since Manchester United won their first League title, 50 years after the Munich air disaster and 40 years after they became the first ever English side to win the European Cup.

The future
Shortly after the Champions League win Ferguson announced his intention to retire as manager before 2011, vowing to break all ties with the club upon his eventual departure. Despite his intentions, Ferguson seems intent on leaving a lasting legacy at Old Trafford, which would see his successor inherit a team of established stars.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Nani, Anderson, Owen Hargreaves and Nemanja Vidic will all be under the age of 30 when the Scotsman calls it a day, giving the next incumbent of the Old Trafford hotseat the best possible means to continue the work of his illustrious predecessor.

Facts

Former stars
Sir Bobby Charlton, David Beckham, George Best, Eric Cantona, Duncan Edwards, Bill Foulkes, Mark Hughes, Roy Keane, Denis Law, Bryan Robson, Peter Schmeichel

Key Players
Cristiano Ronaldo (midfielder), Rio Ferdinand (defender), Carlos Tevez (forward), Wayne Rooney (forward)

Qualifying Statistics
United did not lose a game en route to lifting the Champions League trophy in Moscow. In their 12 games to the final, they won nine and drew three.

The numbers game
28 - the number of trophies United have won outright since Sir Alex Ferguson took charge of the club in November 1986.