Before going into management, Busby was a player for two of Manchester United's greatest rivals, Manchester City and Liverpool. During his time at City, Busby played in two FA Cup Finals, winning one of them. After his playing career was interrupted by the Second World War, Busby was offered the job of assistant coach at Liverpool, but they were unwilling to give him the control over the first team that he wanted. As a result, he took the vacant manager's job at Manchester United instead, where he built the famous Busby Babes team. In a total of 25 years with the club, he won 13 trophies.
Busby was born to Alexander and Helen "Nellie" Busby (née Greer) in a two-roomed pitman's cottage in the mining village of Orbiston, Bellshill, North Lanarkshire. When he was born, Busby's mother was told by the doctor, "A footballer has come into this house today". Busby's father was a miner, but was called up to serve in the First World War, being killed by a sniper's bullet on 23 April 1917 at the Battle of Arras. Three of his uncles were killed in France with the Cameron Highlanders. Busby's mother was left to raise Matt and his three sisters alone until her marriage to a man called Harry Matthie in 1919.
Busby would often accompany his father down into the coal pits, but his true aspiration was to become a professional footballer. In his 1973 autobiography Busby described himself as being as football mad as any other boy in Bellshill citing in particular the impression made on him by Alex James and Hughie Gallacher.
In the meantime, Busby got a full-time job as a collier and played football part-time for Stirlingshire side Denny Hibs. He had played only a few matches for Denny Hibs, but it was not long before he was signed up by a Manchester City side that was a couple of games away from regaining promotion to the First Division.