Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Club Spotlight : Manchester United The Busby Era 1948 1958 1968

  One man who did break through at the start of the 1951/52 season was Johnny Berry, but the winger was hardly a kid. When Busby signed him from Birmingham City, Berry was already 25 and a seasoned professional. He slotted in seamlessly at outside-right. Another newcomer, Roger Byrne, came into the side straight from United's prolific talent academy, a vindication of the far-sighted policy to nurture youth that had been set in train years before. The left-back from Gorton seized the number 3 shirt in November 1951 and made it his own. By the New Year of 1952 United were level on points with Arsenal and Portsmouth at the top of the First Division table. United went clear in February, but the club's faithful fans must have feared another disappointment. They had been here before. In March and April the team suffered a stutter in their form when they lost consecutive games at Huddersfield and Portsmouth, and followed those up with a draw at Burnley. All the time Tottenham, Arsenal, Bolton and Pompey were threatening to overtake them at the top. But Busby kept cool and freshened up his team with a couple of astute positional changes: Aston was moved up front, but the real stroke of intuitive genius involved Byrne. The boy who had only broken into the side as a full-back a few months earlier was switched to the left wing for the last six games of the season. He responded by scoring seven goals in United's decisive dash for the finishing line. With two matches remaining United were within touching distance of the old silver trophy they had last won in 1911. Their opponents for the penultimate game of the season were Chelsea, and United held their nerve to win 3-0, with the old stalwarts Johnny Carey and Stan Pearson scoring the goals (there was also an own goal). 
 The last match of the season brought their nearest challengers, Arsenal, to Old Trafford - but the only way the Gunners could deprive United of the title was by pulling off a seven-goal win. Arsenal's task was made even more difficult when they were reduced to ten men by injury midway through the first half, and they were down to nine by the full-time whistle. United swaggered to a 6-1 victory, with another of the old guard, fack Rowley, bagging a hat-trick, and a delirious crowd of 53,651 saw Busby's team take the title in a carnival atmosphere. It was the perfect culmination to a glorious season for Rowley, who had made a speciality of scoring hat-tricks in the title-winning campaign. He scored two in the first two matches of the season, against West Brom and Middlesbrough, and netted four in all. Rowley ended the season as the Champions' top scorer with 30 and Pearson contributed 22. The only ever-present in the side was the evergreen, ever-reliable Chilton, but a few significant names of the future made a handful of appearances. In a o-o draw at Anfield Jackie Blanchflower made his debut at right-half and Byrne also played his first game that day. It was the first occasion Tom Jackson of the Manchester Evening Nous wrote about the 'Babes' in the United line-up - a phrase which went on to have some resonance. Another new boy, Mark Jones, played three games at centre-half. The great Busby Babes side was waiting to be born.
United celebrated their Championship triumph with a short tour of north America. The football was hardly the most competitive United had been involved with all year and they lost two matches against Tottenham by wide margins. On 14 June rg52 they lost 5-0 to the Londoners at the University of Toronto, then travelled overnight to play them again at New York's Yankee Stadium the following day. In a bizarre ceremony Johnny Carey and Tottenham's captain, Ron Burgess, were obliged to lay a wreath on the memorial to America's baseball deity, Babe Ruth, and then stand to attention while a lone bugler sounded a lament. The funeral spirit extended to the match, as United were buried 7-1 after Rowley had given them the lead. Despite the results, United's pioneering jaunt to the States was considered a success. More than 25,000 saw them play at Yankee Stadium, and the game attracted plenty of interest in the local press. The match report in one paper was headlined, The Mangling of the Manes'. The 1952/53 campaign was an anti-climax after the heroics which had gone before. As late summer gave way to autumn, Busby could already see that his ageing team was past its best. By October United were in one of the relegation places and in the fourth round of the FA Cup they were embarrassingly held 1-1 at home by amateur side Walthamstow Avenue. They won the replay, but lost to Everton in the fifth round. Busby made up his mind to let loose the gifted youngsters who were pushing for selection. As the season progressed a flood of talent burst into the first team: i/-year-old outside-left David Pegg was handed his chance; defender Bill Foulkes made his first mark on the team aged 20; ig-year-old centre-forward Dennis Viollet broke through; another extravagantly-gifted forward, Tommy Taylor, an old timer at 21, joined the club from Barnsley; and a i6-year-old wing-half named Duncan Edwards played his first game.
To be precise, Edwards was aged 16 years and 185 days when he took the field for United at Old Trafford to play Cardiff City on 4 April 1953. The Bluebirds took the shine off the tale somewhat by winning 4-1, but nevertheless it was the beginning of one of the great United careers. Many shrewd observers judge that he remains the club's greatest player ever.
Edwards first captured the attention of league scouts when he was a teenage star for Dudley Boys. Jimmy Murphy, especially, was desperate to sign the boy. Busby's assistant watched him on numerous occasions, and marvelled at the youth's maturity and technical ability. Finally, the manager himself travelled to the West Midlands to offer a deal to the player and his parents: but the Edwards family needed little persuading. Edwards had already-decided he wanted to play for Busby, '1 think Manchester United are the greatest team in the world. I'd give anything to play for you,' he told Busby. He signed for the club in June 1952, aged 15, but he already had the physique of a well-built man. Edwards combined physical strength with a fine eye for a pass, a thunderish tackle, natural athleticism and an equable temperament. He was also versatile; although nominally a left-half, Edwards was a good enough all-round footballer to fill any jersey from 2 to 11.
Busby's plan to play the youngsters was especially bold for the time, when players generally developed later. Edwards himself was struck by how youthful United's dressing room was. He said, The first time I entered the dressing room to meet the other players I wondered if I was in the right place. There were so many other youngsters that it seemed like being back at school.' The changes worked and United recovered to end the season in eighth place. The country was already growing impressed with the ability of the boys emerging together at Manchester United By the end of the 1952/53 season, the phrase 'Busby Babes' was already common currency and the world was about to witness the explosion of a sporting phenomenon - one of the finest club sides ever to grace a football field was about to burst into the world.

There was the sense of an old era coming to an end when Gentleman Johnny Carey played his last match for United and quit the club to manage Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 1953. His Old Trafford career had spanned the grim pre-war years, exile at Maine Road, the Cup glory of 1948 and the club's first Championship for over four decades. It was a sign of the club's new accent on youth that his replacement as raprafn AmiM be the 25-year-old Roger Byrne. The 1953/54 season saw the Busby Babes begin to grow and develop into the cohesive force which would come to dominate English football in the 1950s. The runaway Champion Stan Cullis's utilitarian Wolverhampton Wanderers, a formely thletic and direct team, the polar opposite of Busby's team of young cavaliers. United ended the season in fourth place behind West Brom and Huddersfield in second and third, and they left the FA Cup in the third round, beaten 5-3 away at Burnley. But the campaign represented a significant forward step for Busby's radical young side. The Babes were learning all the time and some of their lessons were painful The following season, 1954/55, they finished in fifth place, just five points behind Champions Chelsea. Before the start of the 1955/56 season, some football sages suggested that Busby's strategy was all wrong. As if to prove that there is nothing new in the game of football, many critics stated that the manager was putting too many youngsters in his team. The phrase might have been unfamiliar in the 19505, but the gist was that you don't win anything with kids. How wrong they were. The campaign turned out to be a glorious vindication of everything Busby stood for, as his fresh-faced, homegrown team - average age just 22 - stormed to the Championship. The extent of Busby's brilliant rebuilding job was revealed in the number of survivors from the title-winning side of four years earlier: there were just two, Byrne and Berry. The new players were almost all Mancunians or Lancastrians who had emerged from the youth programme; aided by a handful of key, relatively low-cost signings. The keeper, Ray Wood, had cost just £5,000 from Darlington; Berry had cost £15,000 from Birmingham; and the most expensive was Taylor, who cost £29,999 from Barnsley (Busby held back a pound from his transfer fee to save the player the burden of breaking the psychological £30,000 barrier!).
The Championship was won largely on the back of the huge volume of goals harvested by Taylor, the centre-forward, and Viollet at inside-left: Taylor scored 25 in 33 games, Viollet 20 in 34. United were also helped mightily by an impregnable home record - they went through the entire season without losing at Old Trafford, winning 18 games and drawing three. United surged to the title on an especially hot streak of form, which lasted from the first week of February 1956 right through to the end of the season. A Championship-clinching i4-match unbeaten run began with a 2-0 home win against Burnley, and the run-in featured 10 victories and four draws. They made sure the Championship was coming back to Old Trafford on 7 Apri! 1956, when Blackpool were the visitors. A match watched by a rapt audience of 62,277 ended 2-1 to United, with the goals coming from Berry and Taylor. By the season's end United had opened up the biggest title-winning margin of the century - 11 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Blackpool. All the hard work begun by men like Davies, Crickmer and Norris before the war, then taken up by Busby and Murphy, saw its fruition in this season of seasons. It shows how far United's clear-minded planning had paid off that the Club also won the Central League easily and the Youth Cup for the fourth successive year. The fact that the Babes had grown up together and learnt their trades alongside one another at Old Trafford proved a huge benefit. The club was shot through with an unshakeable team ethic and a fierce will to win for the sake of the club. The players were gifted footballers as individuals, but everyone's ability was harnessed for the good of the team: that was the Busby philosophy and his players imbibed it from the first minute they walked through the gates of Old Trafford when they were boys starting out with the club. The captain, for one, was certain it contributed to their success. 'One of the secrets of Manchester United's success is that nearly all of us grew up together as boy footballers,' Byrne said. 'The Manchester United way is the only way we know.'
It was also a season when United remembered how to beat City. After a lean spell in derby encounters the Busby Babes beat City 2-1 at Old Trafford on New Year's Eve 1955 in front of a vast throng of 60,956, with 20,000 outside the gates unable to squeeze in. City went ahead in the first half, but Taylor and Viollet scored to give United their first derby victory since September 1951, and their first at Old Trafford since September 1949. The Babes scored 83 league goals on the way to the title, but perhaps the most memorable goal by any United player that season was scored by the incomparable Edwards in the white of England. The date was 26 May 1956, the occasion a friendly with West Germany at the Olympic Stadium, Berlin. The Germans were a powerful side, the reigning World Champions, but England had pretensions to their crown, with a team full of great players, including the Wolves centre-half Billy Wright a^d the izSaentia; Fulham inside-forward, johnny Haynes. Fnglanri also fielded a strong United contingent, with Byrne at left-back and Taylor at centre-forward. But the best of the lot was Ecwsrds. wirsisg his ninth cap, and still only 19. The score was o-o after 2 5 minutes when Edwards took control of the game in the way only great players can, with a few seconds of instictive genius. He won possession close to his own penalty area and began a progress up the field, which German after German tried and failed to interrupt. As the brawny left-half slalomed down the pitch, some of the best footballers in the world were made to look like novices as Edwards, superbly balanced and with faultless control, breezed by them. Finally, 25 yards from goal, he was ready to shoot and his effort flew past the goalkeeper. England won the game 3-1 and with Edwards in this kind of form, they looked likely contenders for the Jules Rimet trophy, to be contested in Sweden in the summer of 1958. Edwards, certainly the greatest teenage player in the world, and perhaps the greatest of any age at this time, had the world at his feet.
The 1956/57 season was the longest and perhaps the most satisfying season so far in the story of Manchester United. The 56-match campaign began with a 2-2 draw at home to Birmingham City on 18 August, the start of a second successive victorious Championship campaign. United retained their title with football that delighted neutral supporters almost as much as United diehards. Their play had been scintillating on the way to the title the season before - now they took it to another plane. Busby's team didn't lose a match until 20 October, when Everton won 5-2 at Old Trafford, but by then United already had a handy cushion at the top after winning 10 and drawing two of their first dozen matches. It was during this run that a young forward from the north-east, who had been on the club's books since January 1953, made his first-team debut. Robert Charlton deputised for Taylor and took the number 9 jersey for the home game against Charlton Athletic on 6 October 1956. The i8-year-old scored twice in United's 4-2 win and, although he didn't manage to command a starting position in his debut season, Charlton still managed to score 10 goals in 14 games. Goals were scored from every position for United that season. The inside-right, Liam Whelan, top-scored with 26 league goals, Taylor scored 22 and Viollet popped up with 16 from inside-left Among the season's highlights was a resounding 4-2 win over City at Maine Road on 2 February, with Whelan, Taylor, Viollet and Edwards getting the goals. The Championship was wrapped up at Old Trafford on 20 April, when Sunderland were routed 4-0. A crowd of 58,725 saw goals from Edwards and Taylor and two from Whelan win the title, and there were still three matches of the league season left. United finished the campaign with 103 goals - the first Champions to break a century since City did it in 1937.  The 1956/57 season was not just a record-breaking title-winning season - it also marked United's first experience in European competition. The European Cup had been launched the season before - without English representatives, because Chelsea had cravenly accepted a Football League order not to take part. The domestic game was still dominated by narrow-minded Little Englanders, who looked upon foreign club competitions as a threat to the League's own prestige, and the game's bosses wanted their Champions to ignore the new contest. They tried to exert pressure on United to boycott the European Cup, just as they had done with Chelsea. A League statement sniffed, 'Manchester United's participation is not in the best interests of the Football League.' Busby and Manchester United, though, embraced the concept of pan-European competition. Busby retorted, 'Prestige alone demands that the continental challenge should be met, not avoided.' After United won the title in 1956 the board had voted unanimously to accept the invitation to take part in the 1956/57 edition of the European Cup. United's first-ever European match was a preliminary round first leg tie played on 12 September 1956, away to the Belgian Champions, Anderlecht Goals from Taylor and Viollet gave United a 2-0 win in the Pare Astrid, Brussels. The return was played at Maine Road, because Old Trafford was still without floodlights, and United raced to what remains their biggest-ever win in Europe. They smashed the pride of Belgium 10-0, with Viollet scoring four and Taylor adding a hat-trick. United were handed a tough task in the first round proper - they had to face the Champions of West Germany, Borussia Dortmund. But United carved out a 3-2 lead in the first leg at Maine Road and shut out the Germans o-o in the second leg to reach the quarter-finals. 
 Athletic Bilbao were their next opponents in an extraordinary two-legged encounter, which began with a hair-raising adventure to the Basque country. In a chilling presentiment of the events of February 1958, the plane carrying the United party flew into difficulty on the descent to Bilbao. The pilot battled through a blizzard all the way and at journey's end he found that the airport runway was out of action. He was obliged to put the plane down in a nearby field. The nerve-shredding experience was no preparation for a big European tie and United slid to a 5-3 defeat in a topsy-turvy encounter at Bilbao's Estadio San Mames. Before they were able to fly home, United's players had to grab shovels and help shift snow from the runway, another episode that takes on a macabre aspect with the knowledge of what was to take place at Munich. Despite the trip and the poor first-leg result. United did enough in the home leg to reach the semi-finals. In one of the great United comebacks, the Babes pulled the match back at Maine Road winning 3-0 to squeeze through on aggregate. Now they faced the biggest challenge of the lot - Real Madrid - rightly crowned the best team in Europe. United travelled to the Bernabeu for the ultimate test in club football and did their best not to be dazzled by the frantic crowd of 135,000, or an opposition line-up featuring such stellar names as Kopa, Di Stefano and Gento. For an hour United kept out the swarms of white shirts that danced toward their goal, but finally Madrid found a way through and finished the game the victors by 3-1. But while Real were blessed with sumptuous talent, the British press were shocked by the Spaniards' physical approach to the game. Among the lurid headlines that dominated the next day's papers was one in the Daily Herald, 'Murder In Madrid', with the sub-heading, 'Manchester United hacked and slashed'.
The first, and still one of the greatest, European nights at Old Trafford unfolded on 25 April 1957, when United faced Real Madrid in the second leg under the ground's new lights. In one of the greatest exhibitions of football the old ground has ever seen, the teams fought out a scintillating 2-2 draw. Real Madrid raced into a 2-0 lead, which seemed to put the result beyond doubt. But the Busby Babes remained undaunted and hit back through Taylor and Charlton to level the scores on the night. The comeback wasn't good enough to send them through, but it was magnificent nevertheless. Frank McGhee wrote in the next day's Daily Mirror, 'Brave failure. Fighting failure. Glorious failure. But that doesn't make it taste any better to those who cherished a proud illusion that in United England had the greatest football team in the world. They are not. 'Real Madrid are the real McCoy. They gave Matt Busby's League Champions a lesson in the basic arts and crafts of the game. They had the edge in skill and stamina. And above all they had a man called Alfredo Di Stefano.' United's first continental odyssey was over, but the memories of an enthralling night's sport would linger long in the memory. Busby was wise enough to realise that his young team had exceeded expectations and there was no shame in losing to a team as talented and as seasoned as Real Madrid. 'A great experienced side will always beat a great inexperienced side,' he observed. The exit from Europe was a disappointment, but United were still in the hunt for the Double. All season long they had looked like Champions in waiting, while making significant strides towards another FA Cup final appearance. In the third round they had suffered a scare away to Hartlepool United of the Third Division (North) and only just made it into the next round with a jittery 4-3 win. There was more opposition from the same lowly division in the fourth round, but United made shorter work of the assignment this time, winning 5-0 at Wrexham. That set up a fifth round clash with Everton at Old Trafford and once again United had to sweat to make progress, with Edwards scoring the only goal of the game. United came up against another Third Division side in the quarter-finals and played Bournemouth, who had reached the last eight after beating top sides like Wolves and Tottenham. United survived yet another tight encounter at Dean Court and edged through 2-1 with two goals from [ohnny Berry. Birmingham City were the last obstacle between United and Wembley and the Babes were guaranteed a difficult match. City were a mid-table First Division side, but they had reached the FA Cup final the season before and saved their best football for the competition. But in front of 65,000 at Hillsborough goals from Berry and Charlton were enough to send United through.
 Their opponents at Wembley were Aston Villa and United were warm favourites to win back the Cup they had last held in 1948. After all, they had just won the Championship by a street and Villa were a largely anonymous, middling Division One team. But the odds lurched Villa's way after just six minutes when United lost their keeper, Ray Wood. Villa's outside-left, Peter McParland, recklessly challenged Wood for the ball and in the collision the keeper's cheekbone was smashed. Even for those times when keepers were afforded less protection than they are today, McParland's was a shocking foul. Wood had caught the ball and was standing in his six-yard area when the Irish international followed through and sent Wood crashing to the ground. In those pre-substitute days United were down to ten men and centre-half Blanchflower volunteered to go in goal. Wood, concussed, bravely staggered back late in the first half, but the dazed keeper was able to do no more than stand ineffectually out on the wing. Blanchflower performed manfully between the sticks and made several impressive saves to keep his team in the game, but in the end the odds proved insuperable. United held out courageously for an hour before McParland scored twice in five minutes midway though the second half. But the Babes were not quite beaten. Taylor pulled one back late in the game, heading home a corner taken by the makeshift centre-half. Edwards, to set up a late onslaught. United pinned Villa back into their own half for the rest of the game. Byrne even gambled outrageously by putting Wood, suffering from blurred visionback in goal to give United ten fit outfield players. But the ploy was in vain. There would be no Double for United this season as Villa hung on for a 2-1 win.  If you could borrow a time machine and travel back to re-live any football season in history, a few campaigns would spring to mind. An obvious one would be 1998/99 and the Treble, but as that armus mirabilis lies fresh in the memory anyway it might be a wasted choice. Of course you could plump for 1967/68 and that magical night at Wembley when Benfica were defeated, but you would also have to put up with City winning the league again. Overall, it would be hard to beat 1956/57, the season when United retained the title, reached the FA Cup final, and enjoyed a first bravura foray into the European Cup, crossing swords with the might of Real Madrid in the semi-finals. This was the high-water mark of the Busby Babes - was football of a higher order ever played on these shores? For two seasons the Babes played football like young gods... and then they were destroyed.
The events of that black day in Munich have been rehearsed 19; many, many times, and the stark cruelty of the event never fades. Even now, the scale of the tragedy barely seems credible, the enormity of it no easier to absorb. It breaks the heart to wind back time to 3 p.m. on that fateful, fatal Thursday, 6 February 1958. The BEA Elizabethan airliner had tried twice and failed twice to take off on the main runway at Munich airport, only for the pilot to abort both times because of the weather. It is easy to imagine the joshing banter and the nervous jokes shared by the young men inside the aircraft, as the plane revved its engines for a third take-off attempt. Then at 3.04 p.m., the crash, the explosion, the flames and the finest generation of footballers Britain had ever seen lay dead or dying in the burning carcass of the aircraft.  As always in large-scale catastrophes, it is the little details and ironies which grab the heart, because the full picture is too horrid to comprehend. The imagination seizes on tiny snapshots, which, all together, produce a nightmarish collage of grief. Like the image of Edwards's broken body in the German hospital bed and the young colossus valiantly flinging to life for two weeks, until his giant heart gave way at last At the airport he had taken the trouble to telegraph the landlad)- of his digs in Manchester to sar what time he would be in for his tea. The thought of that telegram lying on the mat while its sender was proceeding to his doom is almost too much to contemplate. Edwards stirred into consciousness briefly in hospital, and spied fimmy Murphy on the ward. Edwards called out, 'Is the kick-off three o'clock fimmy?' Doctors could not understand how Edwards stayed alive for so long with such grievous injuries: his kidneys were chronically damaged, a lung had collapsed, his ribs were smashed,his pelvis and leg were crushed. His fierce grip on fife was finally loosened at 2.16a.m. on 21 February 1958. There was poor Liam Whelan, the sunny 23-year-old from Dublin, whose last recorded words were,'If the worst happens, Iam ready for death.' And the courage of Busby, who was not given a hope of life by the doctors and received the last rites. In extremis he whispered to Murphy, 'Keep the flag flying Jimmy. Keep things going until I get back.'  The final death toll stretched to 23 names: of the players, Roger Byrne, Geoff Bent, David Pegg, Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones and Liam Whelan all perished; and from the club's staff, Walter Crickmer, Bert Whalley and Tom Curry also died. Eight journalists were among the dead: Alf Clarke, Don Davies, George Follows, Tom Jackson, Archie Ledbrooke, Henry Rose, Eric Thompson and Frank Swift. At first it looked likely that Busby would join the roll call of the dead. But even though he fought back from the brink of death it would be a long time before the manager was fit enough to contemplate a return to work, and Busby wondered if he could ever face it. The feeling of guilt, that he had brought these extraordinary young men together only to see them die together while he survived, was crushing. He said, 'I was lost and sorrowing, and for a short period utterly defeated. A man's help at such a time is not his experience, but his faith and the love and encouragement of his friends.' Busby had a great and trusted friend in Murphy, who stepped in as caretaker manager following the tragedy. Murphy would have been sitting next to the manager on the plane at Munich, except by one of those strange quirks of fate that had taken him to Israel for a World Cup qualifying match with the Wales team he managed.
Murphy was the quiet hero in the black weeks and months following the disaster, as he faced up to the task of rebuilding the shattered club with a sober determination. He confessed he did not feel ready for the job. 'At first I felt I was going out of my mind, not knowing where to start,' he said. But Murphy found some solace in hard work and he pulled together a new coaching staff to help the recovery. Jack Crompton, who had been United's keeper in the first years of peace, was coaching at Luton Town, but he answered the call and turned up to help Murphy. And, somehow, United were able to put a team on the field for the first match after Munich, an FA Cup fifth round tie against Sheffield Wednesday on 19 February 1958. Two survivors from the disaster were in the side; the new captain, Bill Foulkes, and the goalkeeper, Harry Gregg. The rest of the team were players promoted from the reserves or emergency signings. Stan Crowther joined from Villa an.d Ernie Taylor came from Blackpool. It was only 13 days since the carnage at Munich and, on an extraordinary afternoon of raw emotion United won 3-0, with Shay Brennan, a reserve team full-back playing on the left wing, scoring twice. With United now in the quarter-finals of the competition, the entire nation was willing them to go on and win it. Murphy's hastily assembled team was more than just a collection of n footballers: it became a vehicle for catharsis, as millions of people, whether they supported United or not, yearned to see something good, something joyful, emerge from the wreckage of Munich. It was as if United themselves held the antidote to the numbing grief that had gripped so many. Murphy's makeshift team went to the Hawthorns next and drew 2-2 with West Bromwich Albion, winning the replay i-o at Old Trafford. They then faced Second Division Fulham in the semifinals and, after a 2-2 draw at Villa Park, they reached the final with a thrilling 5-3 victory at Hillsborough in which Aberdonian centre-forward, Alex Dawson, scored a hat-trick. The world watched and willed United to beat Bolton Wanderers in the 1958 FA Cup final, but it turned out to be a fairytale written by the Brothers Grimm, rather than Hans Andersen. There was to be no happy ending. Nat Lofthouse put Bolton i-o up after just three minutes and United were sunk by a second goal 10 minutes into the second half. It was the most unpopular goal Lofthouse scored in his long and illustrious career as a centre-forward, as he barged into United keeper, Harry Gregg, forcing him to drop the ball over the line. United were never able to find a way back into the game.
There was one pleasing aspect of the day for United. The match was attended by Busby, who had left hospital a fortnight earlier. He was well enough to watch from the touchline, although he was still unsteady on his feet and walking with the aid of sticks. The boss was still convalescing slowly after his dreadful ordeal - but he was alive and taking an interest in football, and United, once again. Busby was on his way back to resuming control of the club he loved. The FA Cup final of 1958 was important, too, because it held out hope for the future of Manchester United. The Busby Babes were gone and nothing could replace that lost generation. But Murphy and his assistants were building a new United and the club endured. The crushing sense of loss was still there, but life, football - and Manchester United - would go on. It says much about Murphy's resolve and skills as a team builder that his hastily assembled United side finished second in Division One in the first post-Munich season. Wolves finished the 1958/59 season as Champions by six points, but United showed plenty of fight to stay in the hunt almost to the end. Busby returned to the helm during the campaign and a new group of United heroes emerged on the field. Gregg became the first-choice keeper and missed just one game; Charlton came through as the team's most dangerous striker and topped the club's scoring lists with 29 goals from inside-left; Viollet, who was back to fitness and filling the number 9 jersey brilliantly, contributed 21 goals; Albert Scanlon, too, had overcome injuries received at Munich and was an ever-present at outside-left. Ronnie Cope at centre-half, Foulkes at right-back, Wilf McGuinness at left-half, Ian Greaves at full-back on either side, Fred Goodwin at right-half and Albert Quixall at inside-right (a rare big-money Busby signing - he cost £45,000 from Shefield Wednesday, a record transfer between two British clubs) were all valuable members of the reborn United. The personnel might have changed, but the team's approach to playing the game had not. United continued to attack and they scored 103 league goals in their courageous pursuit of Wolves. As United prepared for the 1959/60 season, they could look back on an era that brought the club its greatest glory and its deepest grief. The 19505 had been the best and the worst decade in the club's history. The conflicting experiences had left Busby with a burning desire to conquer one final mountain: he wanted to build one last, great team capable of winning the European Cup. He had lost one team in pursuit of the dream. Now it became an ambition bordering on an obsession to claim the prize that would surely in time have gone to his peerless Babes. The quest for the greatest prize in club football would define the 19603 and the rest of Busby's time in charge of United.




  This unique DVD features rare archive material, including behind the scenes footage which has never been seen before. We follow Busby's appointment as manager in 1945 when habuilt his first great side, captained by the legendary Johnny Carey. They would win the FA Cup in 1948 and the league title in 1952.



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"I didn't say anything to the old man. I didn't need to. I knew what he was thinking and how he was feeling. It was a big thing for the club, but it was a bigger thing for him personally. The lads who were killed in Munich had been his babies" Bobby Charlton on winning the 1968 European Cup.


 








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1 comment:

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    1993England-Holland,Holland-England? thanks.

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