When you grow up as a Manchester United fan, the first thing you hear about is the horrific Munich air disaster.
Of all the historical moments of this great football club, it is perhaps the only event that you have to know about. Why? Because it symbolizes why United is the club it is today.
Sir Matt Busby, arguably the greatest manager United have ever had, was the man who assembled a team full of young superstars who dazzled not only the people of Manchester, but the rest of the country.
Sir Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards were the team’s two standout players. Edwards, a 21-year-old from Dudley, was considered the best player of his generation. Many claim that he would have become the best footballer in the history of England.
Nicknamed ‘The Busby Babes’, the team won two consecutive championships in 1955/56 and 1956/57 with an average age of just 22 years. Everybody loved them.
However, Busby wanted to reach even greater heights. A highly motivated individual, he wanted to conquer ground where no English club had ever set foot. United became the first English team to compete for the European Cup.
The season before the clash, the Reds reached the semi-finals, where they were eliminated by eventual winners Real Madrid. They entered the competition as favorites in 1957/58.
Domestic league games were on Saturdays and European games on weekdays, so air travel was the only option if United wanted to stick to their league games and avoid a points deduction.
Playing Red Star Belgrade of Yugoslavia in the quarter-finals, United drew 3–3 that night and progressed by beating them 5–4 on aggregate.
On the return flight, most United fans know what happened. A stopover in Munich for refueling turned out to be a tragedy and in the end, eight first-team players lost their lives.
Geoff Bent (25), Roger Byrne (28), Eddie Colman (21), Mark Jones (24), David Pegg (22), Tommy Taylor (26), and Liam Whelan (22) died in the crash. Edwards later died in hospital due to severely damaged kidneys.
United fans are told this story in their youth. It’s the only event where you have to be polite because that’s why the club is what it is.
Every year on February 6, we remember the 23 who tragically lost their lives in the disaster. They will never be forgotten.
Even with the younger generation of United fans, who didn’t exist until decades after the accident, the Munich air disaster will resonate as one of the reasons we support the club.
For the fans who sit with me at The Red Army, between the ages of 18 and 25, you can ask each of them about the event and everyone will know all about it.
Just like you, we can’t get enough of Manchester United! That’s why we’ve decided to complement our extensive coverage of United on the Manchester Evening News with a more fan-oriented platform aimed specifically at United fans: United in my mind.
Writers and presenters who share their passion for the red side of Manchester will produce written, visual and audio content to reflect the mood in the stands and in the press box.
People sometimes wonder why that section and the faithful of the Stretford End of the Old Trafford always stay loyal. It is because it has been embedded in our history.
Sir Matt made fans appreciate and fall in love his team, always being loyal to the club. United fans embody that: he is the reason our club was so successful and it would be a mistake to change the direction of his vision.
Education, in addition to appreciating Busby and the United badge, is why the Munich air disaster will always be remembered. It means a lot to us. Without them, there is no United.
They will never die.
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