Benfica vs. Manchester United: Remembering 1968 – Part One

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By worriedturkey.

WEMBLEY!! WEMBLEY!! WE’RE THE GREATEST MAN UNITED AND WE’RE OFF TO WEMBLEY!!

It was a tired and hungry (and smelly) lad who arrived home on the 17th May 1968, having just returned (hitching) from the semi-final of the European cup against Real Madrid. As I got through the front door about 9 o’clock at night the smile on my face said it all. We were going to Wembley to face the might of Benfica, a team who had been there and done that 61 and 62, they had the ‘black pearl’ Eusebio who was a threat, but we had ‘Nobby’ who had put him in his pocket in the ’66 World Cup. As I went to sleep that night I played the semi-final through my head time and time again. Nobody can stop us can they? Then a bolt out of the blue hit home, am I going to get a ticket? I was up finding my token sheet… I looked everywhere, then mam hearing all the racket asked what was up, ‘token sheet, token sheet’ was all I could say. The dozy mare had put it in a safe place, good women. I looked (at the token sheet) and that season I had attended every home and away league game (courtesy of Bill Foulkes. I used to caddy for him, which is another story. His money for caddying helped me to a lot of matches…) plus Gornik Zabrze and of course Real away (I unfortunately missed the away fixtures against Hibs Malta and Sarajevo). With token sheet safely at the side of the bed I slept contented, but still with slight doubt.

Tickets for the final went on sale on the Sunday. My mate and I made our way to Old Trafford on Saturday with sleeping bags, butties (not prawn) and drinks packed and we still weren’t first in the queue. By Sunday morning at 6am the queue went round Old Trafford and along Warwick road. There was police presence (them horses s**t anywhere) as the ticket office opened. We edged closer and closer and then it was my turn. My token sheet was inspected and thankfully my ticket was handed over. Where do I put it for the best? Front pocket? No, just in case I was mugged. Back pocket? No, pickpockets always go there. Inside jacket pocket? No, I’m always in there. Off came the shoe and sock; it’s going in there!!

As we wearily trudged up Warwick road passed queues of people you could feel and see the envy and expectation of those waiting in hope. All of sudden touts came from everywhere offering five, ten times face value for your ticket. Are they that stupid to think after all these years and what I and countless others had gone through we would surrender to their paltry games? It had been ten years of torture; it had been a stone around our necks. We were going to Wembley and come what may we were going to enjoy it. We should have been making this journey a few years ago possibly in ’58 and if not then surely ’59. To think you would give your heart’s desire away for money then these touts didn’t know the strength and feelings of Manchester United’s fans! As I arrived back home all places were going through my head of where I should hide my ticket… in the end I put it at side of my bed so I could look at it every night.

As the date of the final approached my nerves steadily increased. On the Sunday before the big day we decided to travel by coach to London on Wednesday morning. There was a coach leaving Manny at six thirty, but being as daft as we were we ended up going on Monday, just to be on the safe side. So Monday came and we arrived in London for dinner time. Would we be the first there? We stuck to our usual (favourite) routine and headed for the centre to find the fountains were already bathed in red and white as crowds gathered from all parts of the universe. The atmosphere was unbelievable, people hugging people just for wearing red ‘n white. We were lucky to meet some students and ended up staying at their place for two nights.

By Wednesday morning the capital didn’t know what had hit it as thousands upon thousands of reds were swarming the place. Spurs fans tried trouble and were repelled, while Arsenal fans had a go and were sent packing and little pockets of Hammers fans bit the dust. It was just unbelievable because everybody moved as one, and as if everybody sensed it was time to go we went on mass as one to the tube. WE WERE ON OUR WAY TO WEMBLEY!!!!

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1 Comment

  1. I have a huge feeling we will win tomorrow night. I dont know why I do. We will stand up and show the footballing world that were the best team in the world. I am not going tomorrow but will be in Manchester for it and I am hoping it will be a very long night. I hope I wont be sleeping for days, weeks even if we win.

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