On 19 February 1910, the Manchester Guardian reported on Manchester United's first ever game at Old Trafford.
"It was an extraordinary crowd; there has never been anything quite like it in Manchester. Along Chester Road they came, and over Trafford Bridge in trams, buses, cabs, 'taxis', costers' carts, coal lorries, and all strange manner of things on wheels.
"And those who had given the trams up in despair and had not had the good fortune to find a cab or to meet a friend with a coster's cart walked it - a great stream spreading wide over the footpaths into the road, to the despair of already over-harassed tram drivers, and the delight of sundry small boys who trotted alongside cheerfully, offering to do 'twenty cart-wheels an' a 'roll-over' for a 'a'penny'.
"The ground from within was a great sight. Its base, of course, was the playing field itself, looking as spick and span, as smooth, and fig-green as a billiard table. The sun shone down on it, throwing its white chalklines and its white goal-posts into vivid relief. The wind stiffened out the little red and white quarter flags till they looked almost as though starched.
"From all four sides of this trim, vacant green there rose vast, receding walls of people, walls consisting of row upon row of faces, each face finding a dark background in the coat of the man behind till one came to the top-most row of all, when the sky itself served for a background.
"Up there, one noticed, hats were tied on with handkerchiefs. On our side there was cover overhead and shelter at our back; there were plush tip-up seats to sit on, people to show you to your seat, a band playing in front, and all the rest - in fact, as you sat there, it suggested a seat in the stalls with a cinematograph turn of a Cup final or something of that sort going on in front. The crowd looked so big, the field so small, as to suggest the erratic perspective of a photograph rather than an actual eye view of the thing itself."
When that match was played – a 4-3 defeat to Liverpool, as it turned out – the Guardian was in its 89th year of publication, the Observer its 119th, meaning writers from both papers have been in place to record every stage of United's story.
Based on their original reports, Manchester United: 20 defining matches – part of our Football Classics ebooks series – revisits some of the club's most significant moments as they were covered at the time, from Newton Heath's early struggles to dramatic cup final wins, relegation and recovery.
Central to the story is, of course, the horror of the 1958 Munich air disaster. Among the coverage of the club's momentous European Cup final victory over Benfica a decade after the disaster was a piece by the Guardian's Eric Todd. It concluded:
"Inevitably, it was a night for tears, rejoicing, memories, and maybe pathos as well. Yet I suspect that the emotion transcending all others was that of unqualified universal pleasure for one man - Matt Busby, manager of Manchester United. Busby, who once might have joined them as a player for a transfer fee of £150 and who in 1945 visited the then-chairman of the club and inquired almost nonchalantly: 'I believe you are seeking a team manager? Well, I am interested.'
"There is no need here to recount his exploits as a player and as a manager. They are known by heart anyway. Now the European Cup has been added to Old Trafford's bulging cupboards. What next? The world club championship? An eventual seat on the board for Matt Busby? Sufficient unto the day are the honours thereof.
"And when we are 'old and grey and full of sleep and nodding by the fire,' what, I wonder, will be the most clearly defined memory of Wembley, May 29, 1968? That of the bemused spectator who, seeing United in all-blue strip, demanded to know: 'How's Chelsea got into this act?' Of the wonderful vocal encouragement of the oft-maligned supporters of United? United's missed chances? Eusebio's lethal shooting? Foulkes, th'owd chain horse, playing Torres out of the game? Or of Matt Busby marching on to the pitch at the final whistle and shaking hands with the Benfica players and officials before turning to his own men?
"Or will it be the memory of Matt Busby, the man who 'learned to labour and to wait', embracing his magnificent backroom boys, and then watching his men do a lap of honour?
"And did he look up briefly at the heavens as if seeking - and getting, no doubt - the approval of the spirits of Munich? And did he look, too, with pride on his bright young men, his hopes for years to come, and maybe more so on Charlton and Foulkes, who have been with him almost since they learned to kick a football?
"Home are the hunters, home from the hill. At last."