My Favourite Game: Real Madrid vs. Manchester United, May 15th 1968


By Worried Turkey.

Right where do I begin…

Before the semi final Manchester United had lost their previous game 2-1 to Sunderland at Old Trafford thus losing the league title to them lot from across the road. We were sat in the pub after the game head shaking and wondering who was going to get the Madrid tickets. I had missed two games during the 1967-68 season (Hibernians Malta and Sarajevo both away in the European Cup) but I wasn’t going to miss the semi final.

Let me take you back to two weeks earlier. We were sat in the pub enjoying darts night, when Roy (pub landlord) received a phone call from one of the lads who was on holiday in Madrid. Real were selling tickets for the semi against United, but we could only have four, “did we want four?” Six eager heads nodded with delight…. How were we going to split four into six? We thought of everything. Who had been to most matches? Who had been the longest without missing a domestic game? Most money (which immediately ruled me out) and umpteen other suggestions. In the end we decided to rip a beer mat into six, individually signed a piece then placed onto the bar. We asked the next four people who bought a pint to remove a piece, but to leave face down, we waited nervously… Eventually four pieces lay on the bar waiting to be turned over. The landlord was itching to turn over, but we weren’t… after drinking enough to null any pain we asked Roy to reveal all. Luckily/thankfully my name came out third, I was on my way!!!

Due to the amount of alcohol consumed we decided to meet the following day at 12 to discuss details (pubs opened at 12 and closed at 2 in them days). “Right then, when are we going and how?” Two of the lads were wadded and decided to travel on the Wednesday morning by plane. Tim and I opted for the thumb and hope approach!! When the pub closed we went to collect our passports and any money we had or could scrounge (what are mum’s for? Don’t worry, I always repaid money borrowed) and off we set.  First stop was the local transport cafe. With a bit of luck we were offered a lift to Birmingham, which we gladly accepted. On our arrival to Brum, the driver offered directions to the best tranny cafe. After asking around our luck just couldn’t get any better! We had secured a lift straight to Dover and wait for it the lad was going to Spain! However, the inside of the cab was full of City stickers… aaaaaggggghhhhh, but with a silly smirk we set off. We arrived at Dover well before our Monday ferry set sail.   We bought our tickets then Tim, the driver (sorry, his name eludes me) and I went on the drink.

Once we had arrived at Calais we informed the driver of our true destination. We had only mentioned Spain and hid our United scarves in our duffel bag, as we were wary of not receiving a lift. Hooliganism was starting and football fans had earned themselves a bad name.  With all the luck in the world he was passing Madrid… and with a grin said he already knew where we were going due to the United songs the night before in our drunken stupor. Who says City fans don’t have a sense of humour? Well they must, mustn’t they… Anyway he dropped us off on the outskirts of Madrid and even wished us and Man United all the best. He could not have been a proper City fan..? ha ha. We had arrived!! Early Tuesday morning waiting for a game that wasn’t due to start for approximately another forty hours. Nowt for it… is anywhere open? What else was there to do… ha ha

After walking all day in search of a bar we decided on going to the stadium Wednesday afternoon and what a sight, magnificent. With mouth open wide, catching flies I looked at the magnificence of this shopping centre. Some stadium, some way of life… The surrounding areas of the ground began to fill and the first sign of football life appeared as United fans came into being. We pulled out our scarves and we started to enjoy ourselves. A few beers later and with kick off rapidly approaching we went in search of our turnstile, which we eventually (after what appeared hours) found. Inside the stadium United fans had started to come together, unfortunately for Tim and I we were not with them, our tickets had been bought in Madrid… doh! We were so high up the players looked like ants. Just as the game was about to kick off the other two mates arrived, so a band of four stood against the Madrid might (not really those around us were a great bunch) and the game was off.

The two teams sparred during the first few minutes; after all United were 1-0 up after the first leg due to a goal from George Best. The game then suddenly changed, Real took control of possession and ran the game. Pirri made the scores level on aggregate and what followed was wave after wave of white descending on United’s goal. It was not if but when we would be breached again and it wasn’t long… Gento put Madrid in front overall and to make matters worse Amancio grabbed a third. If not for Stepney the situation could have been worse. During all this Sir Matt was pacing the touchline, something I’d never seen him do. We were all wishing for half time, when suddenly Dunne lobbed the ball forty yards forward for Brain Kidd to chase onto. Kidd was steaming forward in search of the ball, so much so that Real’s keeper took his eye of the ball to watch Kiddo. The ball beat everyone and trickled into an empty net. All was not lost, the crowd for the first time that night were silent and as the referee blew his whistle for half time United were the most relieved and Real now looked edgy. During the half time chat Tim, my other mates and I came to the conclusion we had to stop Amancio if we wanted to progress, he had absolutely murdered us during the first half. I was dreading the second half.

During the first half Sir Matt had opted for a 5-3-2 formation with the aim of holding and wearing down Madrid, the second we switched to a 4-3-3 and at times 4-2-4 when United went for broke. We took the attack to Real and slowly, but surely we had stopped the flow and began to push Madrid deeper. Thirty minutes remaining and we still needed that goal, … Twenty five minutes to go, the crowd slowly becoming quieter and quieter. Time was rapidly slipping away, only twenty minutes remained now and we were starting to dominate with Real looking to be more defensive. Then, with fifteen minutes left on the clock all hell broke loose… Paddy took a free kick, which Big Bill managed to head on for the incoming Sadler to slot home, 3-2. We were on a roll, do we stick or do we twist? This is United, we go for broke!! Four or five minutes later Paddy took a throw in to wee Bestie (George had started to turn Manuel Sanchís, Sr inside out) who breezed past Sanchís, skipped past Zoco for fun and pulled the ball back from the by-line… I ABSOLUTELY COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES, who should be there than none other than Big Bill. The centre half with aplomb placed the ball into the bottom far corner… The last few minutes of the game seemed like hours as 21 players were camped inside United’s half as Real’s wave after wave attack battered the red wall in attempt to save themselves, but like a dying man at sea they went down for the third time and United were through and Real faded into the dark night sky.

It was later revealed Sir Matt’s inspirational half time team made a huge difference. He reminded his team they were only one down and “the thing was to attack from the restart and you David (Sadler) move up field and surprise them” and he did!!

The Madrid fans were great afterwards, as drink followed by another drink came our way. We even discovered where United were staying and managed to (with alongside other United fans) get ourselves inside the Fenix hotel and celebrated a team, which is a memory I will never forget…

ROLL ON WEMBLEY IN FOURTEEN DAYS!!! (first problem, how to get home? Sod it, who cares tonight!! Ha ha)

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  1. Thanks for this, a good read. I was on a caravan holiday in Cornwall with my mum & dad, ear glued to the match commentary on a crackly transistor radio. Was allowed to stay up to catch the highlights on Sportsnight. Couldn’t sleep afterwards with the excitement. My dad was euphoric (or maybe just pissed). Failing to win the league still rankles, but I suppose the players had their eye on a Wembley final and the main prize. Another Wembley final – against Real Madrid – would be a perfect end to this season.

  2. Yeah remember this one well. BBC radio second half only! Danced around the kitchen – had fisticuffs with my brother (City fan).

    And then went down to Wembley one fine day in May with the rest of our supporters so fine and so gay. And when it was over and when it was done we had beaten Benfica by four goals to one!

    By the way the pubs in Manchester had hours of 11:00 – 3:00 not (pubs opened at 12 and closed at 2 in them days).

  3. Thanks for the great story.I was 12 back then,and had watched the Sunderland match at Old Trafford.Manage to see the end of the Real Match at my Uncles,and watched the fantastic final at home.Then moved to Canada a month later,to total football wilderness…not so bad these days,see every United match on TV or the computer.Every now and again I go back to Manchester on holiday,and always get to Old Trafford..Thank again for the memories…

  4. Entertaining story but United were two down when Zoco scored an own goal, which was 2-1.
    I really enjoyed the match and the outcome as I was the only Bartcelona supporter in a class of forty, the others were all R. Madrid fans.

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