By Worried Turkey.
I know most of you will know the history of Sir Matt Busby (possibly better than me). My thoughts are based on what I was told and what I witnessed & remember.
As most of you are probably aware, Sir Matt was wanted by Liverpool – a team he had played for during his playing career. They however would not allow him the authority he desired for team affairs. United were willing to offer Sir Matt control of team selection so he became manager in 1945. He was a wily old fox, he was offered a three year contract but walked out with a five year one, plus full control of team selection and players bought & sold. This wasn’t always the case for a manager in those days – on the eve of a game, the board of directors would have their say.
His first and possibly best signing was Jimmy Murphy as assistant manager. The two men immediately started to lay down their blueprint on the side – finishing runners up in the league to Busby’s former team Liverpool. Man United were also runners up in 1947, 48, 49 and 51, but eventually winning the league Championship in 1952. During that period United won the FA Cup in 1948.
The Championship winning side was starting to include one or two older players, but unbeknown to many the pair had been beavering away behind the scenes developing a youth policy. Sir Matt decided to blood several of the younger players with some only being sixteen and seventeen, those included: right back Bill Foulkes; centre halves Mark Jones & Jackie Blanchflower, wingers Albert Scanlon & David Pegg and forward Liam Whelan. Among them was Duncan Edwards, judged by many to be England’s finest player of his era. Those judges were wrong, HE WAS THE FINEST IN THE WORLD (well, to me he was). He was capped by England – setting a record for the youngest ever full International, which remained unbroken for more than forty years. During this period, the team picked up the affectionate nickname the Busby Babes. They won the league in both 1956 and 1957, and were runners-up to Aston Villa in the 1957 FA Cup Final. Sir Matt and his team began the 1957-58 season full of ambition – ready for an assault on the Football League title, the FA Cup and European Cup. Then came that fateful day in our history, one day we remember every year. Such a shame what happened in Munich and we have to.
Sir Matt was in hospital for nine weeks after the Munich air disaster and was given the last rites twice. As he lay in bed (when conscious) he kept asking about his boys, but due to the state of his health they wouldn’t tell him the true extent of what had really happened. It was only after (if memory serves) six weeks that he started to learn about the deaths and injuries. Rumours circulated Old Trafford that he no longer wanted to manage, the deaths had taken their toll as he insisted United actually entered into the European cup. The F.A. wouldn’t sanction it and only the obstinacy of Sir Matt made it possible. His wife made him carry on as she said “he owed it in duty to the ones who died”(behind every great manager there’s a great wife….eh Alex). I’ll never forget Jimmy Murphy leading United out at Wembley that year and watching Sir Matt go round the track on crutches. The whole of Wembley stood as one and applauded, it was so moving…
We owe Sir Matt Busby so much. Through his hindsight and football brain he installed a tradition of the way Manchester United play football and the name our club has worldwide… and for that I thank you deeply!
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