By James Johnson.
Read the complete journey: The Journey From 1 to 19
The years following the Munich air disaster proved to be hard not just emotionally for Man United but also, understandably difficult on the pitch. I spoke to Bill who has been going to Old Trafford since 1960.
“After Munich, when United were propelled by the emotions of what felt like an entire nation to the ’58 Final, defeat in that game was shattering.
“The following years saw us drift into mid table mediocrity culminating in the desperate league campaign of 1962/63 which saw us narrowly avoid relegation. There was a kind of resigned acceptance amongst the fans and I recall gates fell away. I remember reading a match report in a newspaper of an entertaining 3-2 home win against Newcastle which began, “Well you missed it all you 10,000 Manchester United fans who stayed away”
“Once again though, a Cup Final marked a turning point when United swept aside Leicester City in a stylish exciting performance in 1963. I heard our fans sing “When the Reds go marching in” for the first time that day and I felt in those around me the re-birth of optimism. At the same time it was the dawn of the swinging sixties and life in general became more optimistic and exciting. From then on, United were back in the hunt for honours and the teams exhilarating playing style fitted the mood of the times perfectly. The league title began to feel almost inevitable. Memory can play tricks on you but I have a notion that in fact we won that first one on goal average. And nobody had yet coined the phrase “squeaky bum time”. The chant of choice became “We are the Champions”.
Every other season or so the experts in the media claim that having a better goal difference than your rivals is worth an extra point. Never has this been proven as well as in the 64/65 season. As Bill rightly thought, United did in fact win the league title by goal difference from Yorkshire rivals Leeds United. Both clubs finished the season with 61 points but United’s goal difference was 19 goals better off than Leeds’. This was in no small part down to the likes of Best, Charlton, Connelly, Herd and Law all getting to double figures in the league campaign. Dennis law himself finished the season with 28 league goals and 39 goals in all competitions.
After losing the title to Liverpool in the 65/66 season United were back to winning ways the next year. Bill again talks about his experience of that season.
“It was mildly irritating that we didn’t win the league again the previous year but by now that swagger, or arrogance as some saw it, was becoming ingrained in us and we knew we’d be winning it again soon.
“At around this time football violence had begun to escalate and our next league title really epitomised for me what United in the 60’s was all about. We went to West Ham knowing that we could win the league. In the team that day were Law, Best, Charlton, Crerand and they quite simply blew West Ham away winning 6-1 I think. Most of the goals were scored in the first half! Imagine winning the league with a 6-1 away win! No wonder we loved ‘em.
“And if the football itself wasn’t exciting enough, there were hundreds, maybe thousands locked out of the ground conducting running battles amongst themselves and with the police. Inside there was a constant stream of bloodied spectators being led down to the front of the terracing – apparently those cheeky cockney chappies had brought broom handles with razor blades embedded in the end and slashed any reds they could reach.
“I went on the pitch at the end with thousands of other United then, quite literally, fought my way back from the ground to the Tube station. The battles continued onto the platforms and inside the carriages. In the end the authorities simply stopped all the trains and slung us off somewhere in the East End – thanks a lot chaps!
“Probably my finest day watching United in 30 odd years until the nineties. We were unstoppable that day and just for the moment I think we thought it would last forever. We probably didn’t give the threat posed by the Scousers and Leeds a second thought. We had the world by the balls”.
Scoring on average two goals a game United won the league by four points from second placed Nottingham Forest and once again qualified for the European Cup. Nine years after the Munich disaster Matt Busby had put together a team who were ready to take Europe by storm once again, and in 1968 the club finally fulfilled Busby’s dream of United being named the European Cup champions.
This league title proved to be the last of the Matt Busby era and the team slowly began to decrease in quality and were eventually relegated to Division Two. It would be 26 long years till another Scottish manager would finally bring the league title back to Old Trafford.
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