Author of 'Too Good To Go Down', Wayne Barton, joined Off The Ball to discuss the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Matt Busby stepping aside as Manchester United manager, and Tommy Docherty's lost side of 1977.
The years following Busby's moving upstairs in 1969 are often seen as something of a wilderness for United, with Wilf McGuinness, Frank O'Farrell and Tommy Docherty providing differing levels of success; the latter being viewed as a real cult hero for match-going fans.
It is the final season for Docherty - 1976-77 - that is one of great intrigue on and off the pitch. Docherty himself was found to be having an affair with the wife of Lawrie Brown, the club's physiotherapist. Such illicit activity was even more salacious because of higher levels of contemporaneous religious faith, it not only put paid to 'The Doc'; but also contributed to breaking up a highly-regarded Manchester United side that had just won the FA Cup.
The likes of Steve Coppell, Lou Macari, Brian Greenhoff and Martin Buchan were the core of a side that was the most successful since Busby's era, and Wayne told OTB all about the lost era and Docherty's end.
"It is a lost potential thing. In the same way that we talk about the lost potential of the '58 side [lost at Munich] and what they could have gone on to achieve - obviously it's not on the same level whatsoever.
"When you look at the direct comparison in the 1996 Manchester United side that beat Liverpool in the FA Cup, they had exactly the same average age as the side in 1976-77. We all know what they went on to achieve.
"That '77 side was broken up fairly soon after [Docherty's departure], and the main components taken out. They could have gone on to better, particularly when you look at what Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa went on to achieve in the following years.
"There were some Second Division sides who were down there with United who went on to win European Cups, so there is a very strong argument to say that United could have ended their wait for a league title, or even a European Cup, much sooner than they did. We'll never know.
"Docherty was still in a stage of his rebuilding job - they still needed two or three players to add to that side before they could say that they were likely contenders."