Ten years on from Mu­nich Air Dis­as­ter and Manch­ester United hon­our the lost Busby Babes with first Euro­pean Cup suc­cess

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - CHRIS STRAT­FORD SPORTS WRITER ■ Email: chris.strat­ford@jpress.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @CS­trat­toYPS­port

THE mes­sage from the foot­balling author­i­ties was un­equiv­o­cal. So, too, was the Manch­ester United man­ager’s re­sponse – he in­tended to defy their in­struc­tion.

It would be easy to as­sume that here we have the frame­work for a rec­ol­lec­tion of one of many brushes Sir Alex Ferguson had with the pow­ers-that-be dur­ing his time in charge at Old Traf­ford.

Not so. In­stead, it refers to one of his pre­de­ces­sors who shared his na­tion­al­ity, but cer­tainly not his tem­per­a­ment.

Sir Matt Busby was mild in both man­ner and speech, a man who did not use con­fronta­tion with those in charge of the sport in this coun­try as a tool with which to build a siege men­tal­ity that served United teams so well un­der Ferguson. A Red Devils­ment, if you will.

But when the Foot­ball League told Busby in 1956 that he should de­cline an in­vi­ta­tion for his League-ti­tle winning side to test them­selves against the best in Europe, he de­murred.

It was a de­ci­sion that would lead to both glory and grief.

The lat­ter, of course, fol­lowed the Mu­nich Air Dis­as­ter of Fe­bru­ary 6, 1958, when eight mem­bers of the won­der­fully-gifted young side, who had been dubbed the Busby Babes, died on their way home from a Euro­pean Cup tie with Red Star Bel­grade.

Four­teen other pas­sen­gers per­ished on the snow-cov­ered run­way in Ger­many and Busby would later ad­mit that he suf­fered bouts of tor­ment as it was his pi­o­neer­ing spirit that had led to United be­com­ing English stan­dard bear­ers in a com­pe­ti­tion that the Foot­ball League had wanted him to re­ject.

Ten years on at Wem­b­ley, on May 29, 1968, the Euro­pean suc­cess that had seemed the Busby Babes’ destiny was be­queathed to a team that in­cluded Mu­nich sur­vivors Bobby Charl­ton and Billy Foulkes.

United de­feated Ben­fica, al- ready twice win­ners of the Euro­pean Cup, 4-1 af­ter ex­tra-time with Charl­ton scor­ing twice.

To­gether with team-mates who in­cluded the in­com­pa­ra­ble Ge­orge Best – al­though not mer­cu­rial goal-scorer De­nis Law, who watched from his hospi­tal bed fol­low­ing knee surgery – they pro­vided an abid­ing trib­ute to those lost a decade ear­lier in Mu­nich by be­com­ing the first English club to win the Euro­pean Cup.

The al­most un­bear­able emo- tional load on the shoul­ders of Foulkes and Charl­ton was clearly ev­i­dent once they had tamed a side that fea­tured the out­stand­ing tal­ent Eu­se­bio.

Charl­ton, Foulkes and Busby all wept on the pitch, ex­chang­ing hugs, un­spo­ken thoughts of their de­parted friends no doubt up­per most in their minds, men along­side whom they be­lieved they would have been shar­ing such a glo­ri­ous achieve­ment had tragedy not in­ter­vened.

PIC­TURES: PA

GLORY, GLORY MAN UTD: Manch­ester United’s cap­tain Bobby Charl­ton holds the Euro­pean Cup along with goal­keeper Alex Step­ney af­ter they de­feated Portugal’s cham­pi­ons Ben­fica at Wem­b­ley on May 29, 1968 to be­come the first English win­ners of the...

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