03 Aug 2015
Sir Matt Busby fulfils his Holy Grail
Ten years after the tragic Munich air disaster Sir Matt Busby led his rebuilt Manchester United team out onto the hallowed Wembley turf to meet Portuguese Champions Benfica in the final of the European Cup. United were attempting to become the first English Team to win the European Cup and Sir Matt Busby was trying to fulfil his own holy grail of football.
Sir Matt Busby was the manager of Manchester United, when the team, the club, the city and the country were torn apart by the Munich Air Disaster. The plane crashed on February 6 1958 on the slush covered runway at Munich’s airport and killed 23 of the 44 passengers, including 8 of the Manchester United players. The plane was returning from Yugoslavia where United had earned a 3 – 3 draw to take them to the semi – finals of the European Cup.
Sir Matt Busby was very badly injured in the crash and was close to death. But somehow he survived and spent 9 weeks in a German Hospital recovering from his injuries.
Despite his physical injuries and the mental turmoil and guilt he felt after the crash, (He reportedly told his wife Jean that he felt like quitting the manager’s job, as he had feelings of guilt over the disaster – he had gone against Football League officials wishes by pressing for Manchester United’s participation in the European Cup, and had not felt able to challenge the aircraft’s pilot about taking off in heavy snow) he rebuilt Manchester United and himself.
On May 29 1968, in an epic game, Manchester United triumphed 4 – 1 after extra time, with fellow Munich survivors, Captain Bobby Charlton, who scored twice and centre half Bill Foulkes both playing.
As a child I can vividly recall the game. We had recently purchased a colour TV and my Dad, Grandad and 3 brothers all watched the game together. It truly was a dramatic, mesmerizing game. Bobby Charlton, literally ran his socks off on the heavy Wembley turf. George Best was a will of the wisp and Bill Foulkes, steady, strong and disciplined at the back, marshaling and controlling the magnificent Eusebio so very well.
Despite the celebrations that followed, there was a terrible poignancy and sadness about Sir Matt as he no doubt remembered the players who did not survive and could not share his and Man United’s finest moment.