That fascinating detail is revealed as that first contract, dating from November 1, 1946, comes up at the Graham Budd auction in London on May 21-22 estimated at £30,000-40,000 (along with the football collections of two more English football greats, Terry McDermott and Joe Mercer - see below).
Along with clauses such as a fixed annual salary of £675, a rent-free house and four weeks’ holiday, it states he was to “use all proper means in his power to further the quality of play of the teams and the attractiveness of their football”.
Since that time the Moyes and van Gaal eras have not exactly excited United fans either, after years of Fergie-led success and plenty of style, but this contract for Busby was a watershed in the history of United.
As Budd says: “It marks the outset of a journey that would directly lead to Old Trafford becoming the home of a global football powerhouse. This contract changed the history of that club – they hadn’t been great for a long time at that stage and certainly Man City, who Busby had played for, ironically, were certainly the better team winning an FA cup [1933-34] and the league [1936-37] in the 30s.”
At the time this contract appeared, and Busby joined in the 1945-46 season, English football was only just emerging from the war years and the league hadn’t been reinstated, although the FA Cup had been. The contract was actually backdated – and a handwritten endorsement shows that Busby managed to get a pay rise sorted out, to £1000.
Budd adds: “The contract did go to auction at Phillips in the 1990s when the football memorabilia market was still in its infancy, and it made £4200 hammer. At the time that was a lot of money in the football market - no major collections had come up at that time.”
The person who bought it, a private collector, has had it ever since. The contract is thought to have been spotted by the original vendor at Phillips when Man United were having an administrative clear-out.
Terry McDermott collection
Another super series of football lots at Graham Budd’s auction are from a Liverpool legend and appear at the same time the current team are trying to beat Roma in the semi-final to reach this year’s Champions League finale, leading 5-2 from the first leg at time of writing.
Terry McDermott was from an earlier generation of Liverpool players who achieved an incredible amount of success both in domestic and European competitions, as a collection of his honours and other memorabilia and awards in this auction underlines.
Lots 904-947 have all been consigned by McDermott himself, summing up a tremendous career that included at the Anfield club five league championship titles, three European Cups, a UEFA Cup, a Super Cup and two Football League Cups.
The cultured Liverpool-born midfielder, who would chip in with many goals, began his youth career at Bury before being signed by Newcastle United in 1973. A year later he played in the 1974 FA Cup Final defeat to Liverpool and was signed by Bob Paisley for the Reds for the 1974-75 season. After a difficult start he blossomed at Liverpool and became a fans’ favourite (he still works as a matchday ambassador at Anfield).
McDermott is also fondly remembered by Newcastle fans as assistant manager during the remarkable first Keegan management period, and in fact he still lives in the north-east.
Budd says the decision to sell wasn’t based on money, but “it’s something he’s been thinking about for a while”, “just the time of life, a planning thing really”.
Earlier Man City glory days
On the blue side of Manchester, live is grand after a league cup and soon-to-be-wrapped-up title under the genius of Guardiola. Yet another Budd football series of lots is a reminder of the significant achievements of an earlier City boss: Joe Mercer (1914-90).
Younger fans may not know the name, but Mercer was in charge for the Maine Road glory days of 1967-70 when they won a title, FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup-Winners Cup.
His football collection has been consigned by his granddaughter. Some of it, perhaps surprisingly to many, was on loan to the Arsenal club museum. Mercer was actually a very handy player himself, winning titles in 1947-48 and 1952-53 and FA Cup in 1950 while at Highbury – following a league success in 1938-39 with Everton.
“Mercer had a very good playing career,” says Budd, “but just like a lot of players of that era the war completely interrupted that career.
“He went into management, with Sheffield Wednesday at first, then had little bit of success at Aston Villa including winning the first ever League Cup. As for Manchester City, up until very recent times he was one of their most successful managers.”
His first title with Man City came in 1967-68, just two seasons after he led them to the Second Division championship. Mercer was even a caretaker England manager for seven games when Alf Ramsey resigned, but the FA went for Don Revie instead.
The strangest Mercer lot on offer is known as ‘The Moss Side Tapestry’ – an embroidered homage by a Man City fan to the 1970 League Cup and European Cup-Winners Cup side, complete with named player portraits (estimate £150-250).